Idiots at the Opera — La Cenerentola, Who Doesn’t Like a Cinderella Story?

We caught the penultimate performance of Rossini’s La Cenerotola.. Saturday is the final, and it’ll be live on HD. If you already have your live in HD-ticket you’ll have a great time. If you don’t, and it’s still possible to get one, why not? If you want to catch it at the Met, standing room will be your only option as the house is sold out.

The story is of course a familiar one, Cinderella, but with a few twists. No stepmother. In this case it’s a stepfather and while he’s squandered Angelina’s inheritence, and mistreats her, but he’s so buffoonish that you can’t quite get up a full head of steam to hate him. The stepsisters are equally deluded and awful. There’s no fairy godmother, but the Prince’s tutor fills that role.

Now here’s the thing, there are a gazillion versions of the Cinderella – rags to riches story, and very few of them contain actually “magic” as in supernatural beings like fairy godmothers who get the job done by transforming pumpkins into coaches, etc. My FAVORITE version of the tale is the classic Colombian telenovella, Betty La Fea, in which the stepsisters are evil co-workers, and Betty not only gets her prince, but transforms him from a insensitive man-whore, to a responsible husband and father. Her fairy godmother is a publicist who befriends her, helps her pick out clothes, and gets her to depiliate. But I digress…

If you follow the libretto, in Rossini’s version the Prince’s tutor, Alidoro is not a magical being, but he sometimes acts like one. He shows up in scene one disguised as a beggar to better scope out a bride for the Prince. It’s Angelina/Cinderella who treats him with true Christian piety taking seriously that “least among you” stuff. It’s that which makes her worthy to ascend to the ranks of royalty. Alidoro is the one who takes her to the ball.

In the Met’s version, they’ve added a kind of Touched by an Angel gloss to his character. While it was clearly done to entertain, and is not at odds with the libretto, it’s not explicitly supported by it either. Two days later I’m still not sure how I feel about it – creative, or pandering to our expectations? Given the 1930ish costumes, he could have arrived in a Bentley with a bunch of Coco Channel type assistants to dress her up, but what do I know? I’m an idiot, not a dramaturge. Again, in many modern versions of the fairytale, – Pretty Woman, The Devil Wears Prada – mortals have filled the role quite nicely.

This production got a lot of press because the hot tenor, Juan Diego Florez was ailing and the role was taken by Javier Camarena who got raves. We saw it with Florez, who was excellent and has those matinee idol Prince Charming looks as well. In the second act aria, Si, Ritrovarla Io Giuro, he seemed to hit and hold an impossible number of high notes.Opera, is often a competitive sport, so I couldn’t help wondering whether he was trying to banish the memory of his fill-in’s performance.

In addition to that aria, there’s a hell of patter tune in the second act that features the entire ensemble, and a haunting melody sung by the title character in several scenes. Fabio Luisi ably conducts. There’s also tons of physical comedy and the costumes and set design are all a joy.

American soprano Joyce DiDonato was amazing in the title role both dramatically and vocally.

Allesandro Corbelli, Pietro Spagnoli, and Luca Pisaroni all provided excellent support in the roles of Don Magnifico (the stepfather), Dandini (the Prince’s valet) and Alidoro respectively.

Patricia Risley and Rachelle Durkin played the stepsisters. While there is no vocal heavy lifting in their parts, both gave great performances involving a lot of physical comedy. They and were also featured in these roles in the Met’s last go round of this opera in 2009. They worked incredibly well together. For some reason, they don’t have bios included in the Playbill. Isn’t it punishment enough that neither gets to marry the prince?

We’ve seen about 14 operas at the Met this season, and while I’m not sure if I’d say this was our favorite, it’s certainly up there.

This was probably our last Met outing till October, but not our last opera till fall. Next week we’re off to see the New York Opera Exchange’s production of La Traviata. Tickets are still available.

(What does Marion do when she isn’t going to or writing about opera? She writes fiction. You could read some.)

2 thoughts on “Idiots at the Opera — La Cenerentola, Who Doesn’t Like a Cinderella Story?

    1. Yeah, except I might have to actually know something about opera to do that — or music. I’m just a idiot what knows what I like.

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