Glyndebourne on Tour gave a stunning performance of one of Rossinis most charming and ebullient operas his rationalist version of the Cinderella story, shorn of the fairy tale and pantomime elements, showing that Goodness Triumphs.
Revived here by Lynne Hockey, this was Peter Halls production, first seen in 2005, when his aim to set it as social drama showing Cenerentolas revolt against cruel oppression by her step-family, was greeted with everything from adulation to anger.
Originally dashed off by Rossini in just one month before its first performance in January 1817, it contains all the usual Rossini elements: mistaken identities, masks and misunderstandings, an orchestral storm (and an earthquake), arias somewhat familiar from other Rossini operas, at least one of them composed by someone else because Rossini was too busy (or lazy), duelling comic basses, two of his celebrated scene finales – and one flying donkey.
The fairy tale element may have been removed but magic remained in the music, whose sparkle, energy and delight was uncovered by conductor Enrique Mazzola and the excellent Glyndebourne orchestra. From the delicacy of the opening bars of the overture, all was played with perfect precision, yet wittily piping woodwind and chortling guffaws from the brass allowed fresh appreciation of how Rossini wrote the comedy into his scoring.
The joy of this production and the glorious success of GOT is the repeated demonstration that it can assemble a cast of such individual talents, yet meld them into such a perfect ensemble performance all were excellent, all had their turn to shine yet no one individual stole the show there was a wonderful unity with the fine Glyndebourne chorus and and a completeness of the company as a whole, which made this such a superlative production.
Making her Glyndebourne debut, Allyson McHardy was a charming Cenerentola, not a particularly interesting character dramatically, who shows great promise for the future as a Rossini performer, despite the fact that this is a genre that is new to her. Her flexibility of voice, from the simplicity of her opening kitchen ballad to the stunning firework spectacular of her final aria in the last act demonstrated mastery of the full mezzo range.
Her Prince Ramiro, Brazilian Luciano Botelho has a light, liquid bel canto and rapid-fire coloratura and carried off his role with ease and assurance; he was matched by Joan Martin-Royo, as his valet Dandini who gave a sharp and witty performance played with real humour.
Jonathan Viera marshalled all his buffo comic skills as the grumpy, greedy, grasping, almost (but not quite) loveable old rogue, Don Magnifico, desperate to marry off either of his two natural daughters to Prince Ramiro. Eyes goggling, looking at times like a demented toad on the point of exploding, he also has a very fine voice, rich and resonant, as demonstrated in Falstaff last year, graceful on the ear even when spluttering.
Those two daughters have challenging, if thankless roles, with only Clorinda given a brief, hopeful aria. Here they were lightly played and sung by the excellent Anna Siminska and Victoria Zaytseva, whose ugliness of character is played upon, although Siminskas make up and pouting contortions did well to emphasise her spiteful, sullen temperament.
Paul Whelan, a former Glyndebourne Chorus member, has a voice of great strength yet exceptional beauty and made a first class contribution as the austere and authoritative Alidoro not only through his commanding stature and vocal skills but often, surprisingly, simply by providing contrast: remaining quietly still and on the perimeter, watching events unfold and take over the other larger-than-life characters around him.
When Rossini goes for it he really does go for it, producing torrents of notes where other composers would settle for an attractive stream: the complexity of the very largest of the Cenerentola ensembles and the flashiest of its aria showpieces were all were brought to life in this performance with effortless sparkle and unflagging energy.
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