Music: Gioachino Rossini
Director: Aletta Collins
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood
Opera North’s new production Cinderella (La Cenerentola) opened on its first night at the Leeds Grand Theatre and is part of the company’s fairy tale season this winter. Premiering in 1817, Rossini’s version is based on the libretto by Giacomo (Jacopo) Ferretti after Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon. There is no wicked stepmother, instead a wicked (if bigger than life) stepfather; bracelets replace glass slippers and Alidoro, the Prince’s tutor, helps Angelina (known as Cinderella) get to the ball through non-magical unassuming means.
Rossini is known for his unique musical style, particularly for his comic, witty and upbeat dramatic melodies which is fitting for this comedic opera. It’s entertaining but serious at the same time, reminding the audience of the moral of the story. Aletta Collins is faithful to Rossini’s opera and focuses on the story with an innovative and contemporary approach. The main focal point is set at a dance school where Angelina (Wallis Giunta) cleans and is a slave to her stepfather, Don Magnifico (Henry Waddington), and her two outrageous sisters, Clorinda (Sky Ingram) and Tisbe (Amy J. Payne).
The pursuit for a bride is never simple and the opera evokes intrigue and avid interest throughout the performance when Alidoro (John Savournin) disguises in various roles, with an aim to observe the true behaviour of the household which Angelina lives in. He encourages Prince Ramiro (Sunnyboy Dladla) and Dandini (Quirijn de Lang) to do the same (swapping roles) and they see for themselves when they invite them all to the ball.
This superb production is performed by an international cast who are exceptional from the beginning to the end. The arias, duets and choruses that are sung by the cast are highlights in their own right; particularly Un soave non so che, an aria that is beautifully sung by Giunta and Dladla who prove that goodness of one’s heart is far more important than wealth and rank for love. Larger than life though wicked Don Magnifico is superbly portrayed by Waddington and his comical presence makes it entertaining in Noi Don Magnifico during the ball as an appointed Royal Butler. The Courtiers, courtesy of Chorus of Opera North, interact well with the principal characters and play an important part of the opera with its choral and dancing sequences.
There is an imaginative use of animation in the form of mirror imagery in the first act when Angelina (Giunta) sings Una volta c’era un re and dreams of a better life and pictures herself dancing in the mirror, courtesy of Andrzej Goulding. Matthew Haskins’ great lighting effects in the second act beautifully depict the storm, leading the prince and Dandini to seek shelter because of their vehicle breakdown. Overall the Giles Cadle’s adaptable staging blends well with the opera, including scenes of the dance school and the ballroom’s backstage.
Rossini’s score, combined with Ferretti’s rich and metaphorical lyrics, is entertaining with an underlying reminder of the story’s moral. As Dandini sums up at the end of act two stating in translated English, “Comedy with change in the second act – now the tragedy brings” and “What goes around comes around”, exposing the wicked personalities of both Don Magnifico and the two sisters. Redemption between them and Angelina is sought at the very end as it “ends all well”.
This is an unmissable production with an incredible operatic musical score which will entertain and dazzle the audience from the very beginning to the very end.
Touring Nationwide | Image: Alastair Muir