Joyce DiDonato

La Cenerentola

CONDUCTOR: Fabio Luisi

PRODUCTION: Cesare Lievi

CAST: Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Flórez, Pietro Spagnoli, Rachelle Durkin, Patricia Risley, Alessandro Corbelli, Luca Pisaroni

DESIGNER: Maurizio Balo

CHOREOGRAPHER: Daniela Schiavone

RUNNING TIME: 205 minutes

RATING: 5 stars (out of 5)

Paul Boekkooi

Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Cinderella), musically solidly steered and stylistically brilliantly clarified by the conductor Fabio Luisi in a revival of Cesare Lievi’s inventive, predominantly surrealist production, is something quite different from the Cinderella we know from Charles Perrault’s fairytale or the pantomimes inspired by it.

To be totally honest: its staging by the Metropolitan Opera as the final filmed in HD production of the 2013-14 season, is funnier and more inventive than anything you might have seen in a pantomime or children’s theatre.

It is shrewd and clever.

Rossini’s librettist, Jacopo Ferretti, changed some of the characters, gave a number of them a more human slant, while filling up the story with layered life truths.

In this filmed version we also experience the final performance mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato (pictured) gave on stage as Angelina (Rossini’s chosen name for Cinderella) after making this role her own over a period of 17 years. Especially in the final act you can feel the emotional thrust in DiDonato’s singing and acting.

When she, as a stepchild, forgives her two badly behaved stepsisters, she sings, among others, these words after securing the hand of Don Ramiro, prince of Salerno: “Forgiveness is my only revenge.” Elements reflecting this kind of deeper humanity does strike you from time to time among the hilarity characterising this production.

DiDonato’s voice is now ready to develop in a dramatically more challenging repertoire, but it will take time before we will experience another singer-actor of her calibre who could oscillate so sharply between pure farce and that which the French call comédie larmoyante (tearful comedy).

Rachelle Durkin and Patricia Risley as Clorinda (soprano) and Tisbe (mezzo-soprano) are totally in character, ie not being pleasantly nasty. In this staging it is also suggested a couple of times that their despicable behaviour can also be subtly noticed and reflected in a vocal way – something both of them seem to do in the most absurdly side-splitting moments.

Juan Diego Floréz (tenor) as Don Ramiro is at all times and on all levels employing his voice’s expressive qualities and flexibility to perfection. It’s not a big one, but through the performance it grew in stature. It glowed in the wedding scene. In short: he is an unwimpish and strikingly sympathetic Ramiro.

The best of Italian and Venezuelan vocal talents fill the minor roles, although Alessandro Corbelli (baritone) is so charmingly wonderful in his old-school pomposity and comic body language, that you tend to forget how darn difficult Rossini’s baritone roles are.

Apart from the impressive and skilful solo singing, La Cenerentola is foremost an ensemble opera. In it you should recognise and relish the intoxicating mix of musical spirit, theatrical flair and technical prowess this implies. Every note of the score is sung with a huge infectious relish. These qualities are also reflected in the work of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus.

The remaining cast of solo voices can be described in just as wide detail, but suffice to say: they are all great in their own way, and more importantly, they fit into the well-focused liveliness of the staging as a whole.

La Cenerentola is the comic highlight of the past Met Season.

Screening at Cinema Nouveau and selected Ster-Kinekor theatres.