Dir. Sandrine Anglade, Cond. William Lacey, Theatre Royal, 15th – 25th October
I’ll admit it. I only came to the opera to hear Rossini’s music. As I sit down, I anticipate that the orchestra will be the highlight of the evening. However, when the singers flex their vocal cords on the stage, La Cenerentola quickly becomes a battle of the senses.
The orchestra belts out the bewitching sound of Rossini’s compositions, the opera singers sing of emotions good and bad and the scenery lures the audience into the story of Cinderella. It’s difficult to judge which feature contributes the most to the production.
Furthermore, the opera has a quality of originality that surprises me. The opera’s Cinderella is, for once, no shrinking violet. She stands up to her stepsisters’ teasing and valiantly keeps singing over their venomous crooning. The Prince’s voice is also a highlight of the show, despite his part being performed by the understudy.
There are a few other notable differences from the original story of ‘Cinderella’ – instead of a glass slipper, for instance, Cinderella leaves behind a bracelet conveniently large enough to be seen by all those sitting in the theatre. This alteration is a nod to the past: apparently Rossini’s audience would have been horrified had a young, unmarried woman left behind an article of her clothing. An abandoned shoe must have been the height of moral depravity.
The evil sisters are also a source of amusement, adding comedy to an opera that had as its heroine an enslaved and impoverished woman, by singing lines boasting of their beauty and charm while their body language proclaims the very opposite.
My main issue with the opera is that there are moments in which the singers and the musicians did not form an easy duet. Whenever the singers sang different lines from one another, the words were drowned out by Rossini’s music. Divided you could hear them, united their voices were muffled. This ‘silence’ on the stage did not occur often; however, it was frequent enough to be noticeable.
And this meant that Rossini essentially stole the show.