Notes and Editorial Reviews
Riccardo Chailly, cond; Ann Murray (
); Francisco Araiza (
); Gino Quilico (
); Walter Berry (
); Angela Denning (
); Daphne Evangelatos (
); Wolfgang Schöne (
); Vienna St Op Ch; Vienna PO
ARTHAUS 100215 (DVD 171:00) Live: Salzburg 1982
(“Cinderella”) is one of Rossini’s longest comedies, nearly three hours. For any readers who are not familiar with this opera, let me briefly tell you that it bears little resemblance to Perrault’s famous fairy tale. There is no fairy godmother, no pumpkin coach with mice turned into horses, no glass slipper, and no ball at the Prince’s with a midnight curfew. What’s left is a sweet girl, mistreated by her stepfather and vain stepsisters, and a prince in search of a wife. The prince, Don Ramiro, seems to have narrowed his search for a bride to Don Magnifico’s household, and only Magnifico and his daughters are invited to the castle. Cinderella, here named Angelina, crashes the party and captures the Prince’s heart, although he is disguised as his servant Dandini. Instead of a glass slipper, Angelina has a pair of fancy bracelets. She gives Ramiro one of them and tells him to search for her, and she will be recognized by wearing the matching bracelet. Rossini didn’t like magical fairy tales.
The essentials of the story remain: a mistreated girl has a kind heart, and kind hearts are rewarded by marrying handsome princes. Angelina is unlike most of Rossini’s other comedic heroines; she is not in the mold of the feisty, strong-willed women like those found in
Il turco in Italia
L’italiana in Algeri
. Angelina also doesn’t have a significant aria until the act II finale, a vocal-fireworks spectacular she shares with most of the principals and the chorus.
is very much an ensemble work, with Don Magnifico getting three plum arias and the lead tenor only getting one significant piece of solo work.
Even though Rossini tried to distance the work from being an operatic fairy tale, some stage directors and scene/costume designers have endeavored to plant the work firmly in the land of Once Upon a Time. This 1982 Salzburg production is not one of them. Director Michael Hampe follows Rossini’s intentions and makes this a morality tale emphasizing various aspects of the human condition. Angelina is sweet natured and sadly resigned to her plight, the stepsisters are not ugly caricatures, but two vain and selfish women, and there’s no attempt to add a comic luster to Don Magnifico. In this production, he is rather smarmy and hopes to better his lot in life by finding rich husbands for his daughters. The scenery is basically wing and drop, decorated to reflect honestly Magnifico’s threadbare mansion and Don Ramiro’s marble and chandeliered palace. The music sparkles, the singing is in good hands, the acting is credible, and Hampe’s direction is straightforward and unaffected. This is a
that is mercifully free of the artsy-fartsy updating that seems to afflict more and more opera productions. One of the visual highlights of this staging is the deft handling of the storm scene in act II. Shown largely in silhouette, Don Ramiro is riding in a horse-drawn coach, Dandini holding on for dear life as they hurry through a nighttime storm. The wind is blowing, the coach is bouncing, the horse is galloping, hats blow off—it’s great theater!
Ann Murray is a wonderful Angelina. She is so credible as poor Cinderella that you can’t help but feel happy for her when she marries the handsome prince. The comic relief is the prince’s manservant, Dandini, who gets to play Prince for a Day by switching identities with the real prince, Ramiro. Gino Quilico does not approach the role of Dandini as comic buffoon, but rather as a spritely young man who would like to better his station in life and who savors every minute of being the prince. Francisco Araiza shows the proper amount of mild irritation when Dandini oversteps his bounds, and is convincing as the Prince looking for someone to love him for himself and not for his title. Angela Denning and Daphne Evangelatos walk a fine line playing the stepsisters to show us the vanity without becoming objectionable. If they are callous towards Angelina, it’s not because they’re mean—just two self-absorbed women more interested in themselves than in other people. The only characterization that I felt was not quite right was Walter Berry’s Don Magnifico. Berry doesn’t have the right kind of comic swagger to make Don Magnifico likable.
There are two other
recordings available on DVD that I recommend as comparisons and/or alternatives to this Salzburg production. One is a live performance from Houston Opera with Cecilia Bartoli, Enzo Dara, Raúl Giménez, and Alessandro Corbelli; the other is a made-for-TV film (directed and designed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle) with Frederica von Stade, Francisco Araiza, Paolo Montarsolo, and Claudio Desderi. The Ponnelle film was based on a stage production, but clearly was shot on a soundstage with blocking adjusted for the camera. Von Stade’s Angelina is similar to Ann Murray’s—sweet and unaffected and clearly smitten with the disguised Prince. Araiza’s Ramiro is a bit more nuanced in the film than on the stage at Salzburg, and Montarsolo’s Don Magnifico is a lot more likable than Walter Berry’s is. Montarsolo looks like an impoverished nobleman, whereas Berry’s characterization lacks sophistication. Claudio Desderi is more comedic than Quilico. Quilico has charm, Desderi reminded me of an operatic Dom DeLuise.
Reaching more into the realms of Fairyland than either the Salzburg or Ponnelle
productions is that from Houston, filmed during performance. The scenery is dominated by staircases that rise to a central platform; various backdrops change the location. The colorful costumes are cleverly cartoonish, and the performance sparkles with merriment that is closer to two-dimensional than realism. Such a setting is probably good for Cecilia Bartoli, whose effervescent personality would be difficult to subdue to be a credible poor-put-upon Cinderella. Bartoli’s Angelina has warm-hearted spunk; does she really need Alidoro to escape the housekeeping chores? Giménez is a tall, stately prince who seems genuinely amused by the spunky servant girl. The genius of this production is casting Enzo Dara and Alessandro Corbelli, two excellent comic actors who excel in the basso-buffo roles, as Magnifico and Dandini. The sisters, Laura Knoop (Clorinda) and Jill Grove (Tisbe), are priceless as they preen and fawn over Dandini, disguised as the prince. My only reservation about this Houston Grand Opera DVD is Brian Large’s manic video direction, which bounces from camera to camera and inserts an annoying abundance of way-too-close close-ups.
Take your pick: I’ve enjoyed all three of these
videos and hope you do too.
FANFARE: David L. Kirk
Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu languages: English, German, French, Spanish
Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish
Running time: 171 mins
Works on This Recording
La Cenerentola by Gioachino Rossini
Ann Murray (Mezzo Soprano),
Francisco Araiza (Tenor),
Angela Denning (Soprano),
Walter Berry (Bass Baritone),
Wolfgang Schöne (Bass),
Gino Quilico (Baritone),
Daphne Evangelatos (Mezzo Soprano)
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1817; Italy
Date of Recording: 1988
Venue: Kleines Festspielhaus, Salzburg
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