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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La Cenerentola - Opera Buffa in Two Acts (1817)
Angiolina (La Cenerentola) - Sonia Ganassi (mezzo); Don Ramiro, a disguised Prince and her suitor - Antonio Siragusa (tenor); Dandini, his servant - Marco Vinco (bass); Don Magnifico, Cenerentola’s father - Alfonso Antoniozzi (buffa-bass); Alidoro, Ramiro’s tutor - Simon Orfilo (bass); Clorinda, Cenerentola’s step sister - Clara Di Censo (soprano); Tisbe, Cenerentola’s step-sister - Paola Gardina (mezzo)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa/Renato Palumbo
rec. live, Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa, May 2006
Stage Director: Paul Curran
Set designer: Pasquale Grossi. Costume designer: Zaira De Vincentiis
Sound format: DD 5.1. DTS 5.1. PCM stereo
Picture format: 16:9 NTSC
Introductory essay in English, German and French
Subtitles: Italian (original language), English, German, French, Spanish
ARTHAUS MUSIK 107 311 [2 DVDs: 169:00]

La Cenerentola, Rossini’s 20th opera and his take on the Cinderella story is his most popular work after Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The libretto by Jacopo Ferretti is not based directly on Charles Perrault’s fairy tale of 1697 but was plagiarised from Pavesi’s Agatina o la virtu premiata, which had its premiere at La Scala in 1814. Originally Rossini was supposed to have set an entirely different work to open the Carnival Season on 26 December 1816.However, on his arrival in Rome in mid-December he found the Papal Censors had rejected the proposed libretto provided by Ferretti. At a late night crisis meeting with the impresario and librettist the subject of Cinderella was agreed, as was a postponed premiere. With less than a month to go before the new first night both composer and librettist had to make compromises. Rossini borrowed the overture from his own farsa La gazzetta, written for Naples a mere five months earlier (see review). He also employed a local musician, Luca Angolini, to assist him by composing all the secco recitatives as well as other pieces that are now generally omitted in performance and recordings, most of which follow Alberto Zedda’s Critical Edition.
 
This production by Paul Curran with sets by Pasquale Grossi and costumes by Zaira De Vincentiis originated in Naples in 2004. Curran updates the story and justifies this by his wish to draw attention to the conflicts inherent in the social class stresses he sees in the story. It puts the story precisely in 1912. As for the magic fairy-tale elements these are restricted to a rather zany winged hat that descends onto Alidoro’s head as he does his transformation of Angiolina, although his own from blind man is not managed with conviction. The furnishings are rather posh in Don Magnifico’s supposedly run-down establishment, but the slick movement and easy mobility of the sets and drops facilitates quick changes of mood and location as befits the music and the unfolding plot. The whole is kept bubbling along by Renato Palumbo’s tempi and pacing.
 
The date of 1912 does impose some restrictions on the costumes. The Magnifico of Alfonso Antoniozzi, with central hair parting, tends to look more an Edwardian fop than the dissolute blusterer we are used to. His lean bass would benefit from a little more colour. The fact that he looks rather young to be Angiolina’s father is accentuated by Sonia Ganassi’s rather matronly looks and dress as any fault of his. Cenerentola’s arrival at the ball in black costume, masked like a beekeeper and with complex headgear, does little to enhance her role. Although Ganassi sings well overall, and has a very thorough grasp of the nuances of the role, there are times when I was aware that her voice lacked the ease of flexibility in the decorations that she evinced in her younger days. In 2008 she took on the distinctly heavier demands of Eboli in the recording of Don Carlo from Covent Garden (see review). However, she concludes the performance with a fine Nacqui all’ affano. I was less impressed with Antonio Siragusa’s portrayal of Don Ramiro. Far too often his stiff facial expression seem to reflect an excess of botox rather than emotion, particularly towards Angiolina. I have seen comments from a well known critic preferring his singing to that of Juan Diego Florez. In that respect I must sit in the opposing corner. For me his tightly focused tenor, as heard here, lacks much in the way of palette of colours or variety of phrase, although in simple terms he has potential vocal elegance and a pleasing tone.
 
As Alidoro Simon Orfilo sang his aria La del ciel with aplomb and deserved his reception. For me the star of the performance came with the singing and acting of Marco Vinco as Dandini. In his first shot at the pivotal role of Dandini he sings and acts to perfection. His youthful and elegant figure, well costumed as supposed Prince and later as revealed in his true status, is a consummate portrayal and one that helps hold the production and performance together. He can play it straight-faced or with humour and he plays a full part in the humorous duet with Magnifico, Un segreto d’importanza, as he reveals the fact that he is the valet not the prince. The step-sisters act and sing well, although one looked a little past her sell-by date as a potential bride of Ramiro!
 
The sound is good and clear and enhances the concise diction of the singers and chorus whilst the excellent playing of the orchestra is also heard to good effect. There is a good introductory essay by Kenneth Chalmers in the booklet.
 
There is plenty of competition on DVD in this opera as befits it being Rossini’s second most popular stage work. These include the classic Unitel film version based on Jean-Pierre Ponelle’s 1973 production at La Scala under Abbado (review), whilst a 1995 Houston Opera recording featuring Cecilia Bartoli has found favour with her adherents (Decca 071 444-9). More recently, a production by Joan Font in a co-production between Welsh National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, the Gran Teatre del Liceu and Le Grand Théâtre de Genève made it onto DVD during Liceu performances in January 2008 featuring Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Florez. I caught this colourful production in Wales (see review). Font and his Barcelona-based company Comediants have long been associated with a carnivalesque approach. When applied together with magical scenic transformations it brings the work nearer to the pantomime that Britons know as the Cinderella story than is often the case. With vividly coloured costumes, and six choreographed rats acting as scene-shifters to facilitate swift scene-changes along with telling and expeditious use of props, it is a performance that goes with a swing (Decca DVD 074 3305).
 
Robert J Farr

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