Notes and Editorial Reviews
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LA CENERENTOLA (Rossini)
Rossini’s classic take on the “Cinderella” story is a comic opera full of thrilling arias, beautiful melodies and lots of laughs. The Metropolitan’s charming production was revived in 2009 for star mezzo, Elena Garanca. The mezzo triumphs in the role and dispatches vocal fireworks throughout. She is joined by American tenor Lawrence Brownlee and a cast of bel canto singers.
BONUS FEATURE: Interviews by Thomas Hampson
CAST: Elina Garanca
(Cenerentola), Lawrence Brownlee (Don Ramiro), Simone Alberghini (Dandini), Alessandro Corbelli (Don Magnifico), John Ralyea (Alidoro) Orchestra & Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera, New York Conductor: Maurizio Benini/Stage Director: Sharon Thomas
It's a pity that this had to be released on the heels of Decca's brand-new version of the opera from Barcelona's Liceu; that one is ideal. This new one from the Met is merely terrific--a spotlessly clear second choice.
The production, fantasy-tinged and more subdued than the Liceu's but equally witty, is by Cesare Lievi with sets and costumes by Maurizio Balo. The blue-and-white striped walls, oversized rooms, one-legged sofa (held up by one of the stepsisters' many shoes), briefcase-carrying, bowler-hatted, Magritte-inspired chorus, winged, white-suited Alidoro, and picturesque fantasy for Magnifico's first aria are a delight to behold, and the lovers seem genuinely smitten by one-another. The updating to something like the early 20th century can be felt mostly in the costumes.
High quality singing abounds. Elina Garanca, a gorgeous Latvian mezzo, is a good technician with a beautiful voice--and she's a feast for the eyes as well. Her coloratura is fine, but it doesn't flow as naturally or as bountifully as Joyce DiDonato's (at the Liceu); she fudges a bit. I have seen her Charlotte (on DVD) and her Carmen (at the Met) and she is better suited to those two roles, although she never leans on her voice and comes across as an excellent if not spontaneous singer. And it is the lack of spontaneity, engendering a certain detachment that makes her second best here. The blond wig does not suit her either.
The superb Lawrence Brownlee matches the amazing Juan Diego Florez (Liceu) note for note and run for run, and his voice is actually a rounder, somewhat more handsome sound. But Florez cuts a better figure (Brownlee, I've heard, has dropped 40 pounds since this was recorded--I'm sure it makes a difference) and we are dealing here with a visual medium. Were these audio recordings I might prefer Brownlee; Florez's tone, coming from the mask, can be overly bright.
Simone Alberghini's Dandini is splendid, funnier and a bit more deft and clear in fast passages than his Decca rival, and Alessandro Corbelli's Magnifico is glorious--broad, but just human enough, terrified before he's forgiven in the final scene, and clear of articulation. The Alidoro, John Relyea, possesses a wonderful sound but not the little notes Rossini writes. The stepsisters deserve prizes for silliness and fine singing. Maurizio Benini leads with sparkle, never allowing the score's more manic moments to get away from him, and the Met Orchestra plays with phenomenal precision.
The picture is clear and clean, the camera work intelligent, subtitles (in all major European languages and Chinese) clear and honest. A brief bonus takes us backstage for a chat with the principals. And so, if you can own only one, the Decca set is for you, but this Met production with those Magritte-men, Brownlee's impeccable, charming singing, and an overall delightful aura is pretty impressive.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording
La Cenerentola by Gioachino Rossini
Lawrence Brownlee (Tenor),
Simone Alberghini (Bass),
Alessandro Corbelli (Baritone),
Elina Garanca (Mezzo Soprano),
John Relyea (Bass)
Metropolitan Opera Chorus,
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Written: 1817; Italy
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