Theatre Review: La Cenerentola (WNO), Empire Theatre, Liverpool

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Image Source: WNO

Written By: Barbara Sherlock

Format: Opera
Genre: Comedy
Date: November 8 2018
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Welsh National Opera have returned to Liverpool for the autumn season with Rossini’s take on the Cinderella story in this co-production with Houston Grand Opera, Grand Teatre del Liceu & Grand Théâtre de Genéve.

As an international touring production, director Joan Font has injected ‘a Mediterranean feel’ into this two-act comic opera with candy-coloured costumes, ornate wigs and a nest of dancing mice. First performed in 1817, La Cenerentola translates as ‘Goodness triumphant’, and the libretto by Giacopo Ferretti incorporates some dark twists on the well-known fairytale that has different versions in different countries. There is no wicked stepmother or fairy godmother. Instead, we have a cruel stepfather in Don Magnifico, played by Fabio Capitanucci, as a scheming, social climber taunting his stepdaughter Angelina (La Cenerentola) to work harder as he tries to marry off one of his beautiful daughters, Clorinda (Aoife Miskelly) and Tisbe (Heather Lowe).

The sisters become increasingly ugly in their behaviour, as a royal valet arrives to announce that the prince must marry the most beautiful girl in the land in order to continue the royal lineage, and all (they have a list) must come to a royal ball. The prince, Don Ramiro (Matteo Macchioni), has swapped places with his valet Dandini (Giorgio Caoduro) in order for him to see the girls for himself. He arrives unannounced, only to find Angelina in the kitchen, and it is love at first sight for both. Magnifico tells them that he only has two daughters, as the third on the list died.

As her sisters squabble and make demands while dismissing Ramiro as a servant, Alidoro (a wizard-like tutor to the prince) arranges for Angelina to come to the ball. A huge sensation with a striking resemblance to La Cenerentola, she finds the prince and gives him one of her two sparkling bracelets, saying that if he can find her and his feelings haven’t changed, then he can marry her. As the prince speeds off after her, Alidoro makes sure his coach breaks down outside Magnifico’s castle where he finds her and immediately whisks her off, still in her rags to marry her. The whole story becomes a dream with Angelina left sweeping ashes in the chimney, while still wearing her sparkling tiara.

The spectacular production does not disappoint, with conductor Tomáš Hanus setting a fair pace with a full orchestra as the overture gives a taste of what is to come. The music is unfamiliar in terms of popular recognisable tunes, but is light with strings and flutes. The cast performs beautifully with ample opportunity for principal singers to shine, and a glorious male chorus of seventeen. Six trained dancers, on stage throughout, almost steal the show as they perform as cheeky mice, injecting much humour to the production. Everything is oversized. A huge but plain set represents each room by simply raising the mantle to reveal enormous doors; firstly, it becomes an exit, and then it becomes an entrance into the ballroom. Mice move a huge gilded egg-shaped dresser that becomes both a coach and a throne stand. Erraught makes a worthy La Cenerentola, with her glorious coloratura soprano, and she leads the cast in their final bow to thunderous support.

A mixed audience of older people to some very young children enjoyed the spectacular, and this is a great first introduction to opera. Overall, La Cenerentola is an absolute treat for the eyes and the ears.

Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding