Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Director: Aletta Collins
Conductor: Wyn Davies
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Although promoted as part of their season of dark fairy tales Opera North strip away all supernatural elements from their modern-day production of Rossini’s Cinderella.
Director Aletta Collins takes inspiration from the alternate title for the opera Goodness Triumphant. Angelina (known by the nickname Cinderella and played by Wallis Giunta) does not require a Fairy Godmother to achieve her destiny – she just needs to recognise her own worth. This is not easy; Angelina’s self-esteem is understandably low- her father Don Magnifico (Henry Waddington), has stolen her inheritance and compels her to work in his run-down dance academy and be subservient to her stepsisters. But help is at hand as the servants of Prince Ramiro (Sunnyboy Dladla) are seeking a suitable bride for their prince.
While many of the familiar aspects of the fairy tale are missing – there is no mention of a stepmother – the legend of Cinderella fits perfectly into the format of comic opera. Opera audiences are accustomed to the device employed in this production of a servant pretending to be his master (and visa-versa). Thus the concept of Angelina being provided with a posh dress and escorted to the ball by the prince’s devoted tutor (a knowing and charming John Savournin) does not raise an eyebrow. The stripped down format suits the modern day setting for the tale with friendship bands becoming a fine substitute for the bracelets by which the lovers are able to identify each other. There is greater psychological depth to the production with Angelina emotionally shattered to overhear her father pretending that she has died.
Director Aletta Collins (who also choreographs) wrings every possible comic opportunity from the production. The vast Opera North chorus, dressed in the finest Italian fashion, follow the prince around like an entourage tramping across the stage like they have stepped out of a Marx Brothers movie. The portly Henry Waddington selflessly sends up the fact that his physique is hardly that of a dance master. Sky Ingram and Amy J. Payne, while never concealing the deeply nasty nature of Angelina’s sisters, secure great comic moments by making clear that the sheer self-regard of the sisters blinds them to how they are perceived by others.
This is a bright and cheerful production with Gabrielle Dalton’s costumes in sharp primary colours setting the mood.
The vocal performances are of a very high standard. Although not a soprano Sunnyboy Dladla’s voice is higher than one might expect and cuts through the theatre in a sharply original manner. Wallis Giunta is a superb heroine – quietly charismatic and capable of soaring vocals.
Runs until 11 March 2017 | Image: Alastair Muir