La Cenerentola (WNO) ~ Birmingham Hippodrome

Star rating: ****

Rossini’s La Cenerentola makes for a refreshingly vibrant, light and comedic Opera. Welsh National Opera’s latest production is a festive treat indeed just ahead of December too, perfect timing!

It’s essentially a Cinderella story as it revolves around a kitchen maid by the name of Angelina (Tara Erraught) who is bereft of her mother and has a cruel, domineering Step-Father, Don Magnifico (Fabio Capitanucci) to blame for her diminished status. No Cinderella story is complete without the step-sisters, in this case they’re the sneering, simpering and vanity-driven Tisbe (Heather Lowe) and Clorinda (Aoife Miskelly). Hell-bent on getting their mitts on the coveted throne which can only be achieved by wooing and marrying Don Ramiro (aka the Prince played by Matteo Macchioni) and he has his own agenda. He’s coerced his attendant, Dandini (Giorgio Caoduro) into swapping places with him so that he can choose his own match, undercover.  Meanwhile, Angelina’s unwavering kindness includes showing compassion towards a beggar (who is actually Alidoro (Wojtek Gierlach) in disguise – he’s Don Ramiro’s tutor). The same gentleman is shown disdain by Tisbe and Clorinda, therefore they’ve unwittingly forced themselves out of the picture even before we have the ball scene!

Directed by Joan Font and designed by Joan Gullen, the spectacular production lit up the Birmingham Hippodrome stage, it’s an action-packed, farcical-paced piece. The score is uplifting with traditional undertones as befits a timeless tale and the intricate Italian language enhances beautifully. Tara Erraught shines as Angelina – even in her rags she’s a Princess in the making and her vocal ability is effortless. She is well matched with Matteo Macchioni as Don Ramiro, her Prince. Wojtek Gierlach commands the stage and adds a glorious air of mystery to the role of Alidoro, who is in effect, the Fairy Godmother of the show. Giorgio Caoduro brought many laughter-inducing moments to the role of Dandini, his vocals lent themselves exceptionally. There was a slight lack of the dastardly which I’ve come to associate with the character – however this did not detract from the overall performance. Fabio Capitanucci made Don Magnifico the villain of the piece, however and as Angelina’s Step-Father he cut an imposing presence. The highlights of the production however came in the form of the Step-Sisters, as Tisbe and Clorinda – Heather Lowe and Aoife Miskelly are a force to be reckoned with. Their facial expressions match every nuance of the lyrics they sing so magnificently. I particularly enjoyed the subtle differences between the characters too, Clorinda appears to be the plotter whereas Tisbe seems to be less ambitious. Both characters are portrayed to perfection.

Overall La Cenerentola is a production I’d highly recommend to everybody, as a first Opera it would be an ideal experience. The Italian language is translated into English by way of subtitles which are easy to read from anywhere in the auditorium. The story is so familiar to most people that it’s simple enough to follow even with the initial language barrier if you don’t happen to be fluent in Italian. The bright, almost psychedelic colour scheme and assorted rats who scamper about, flocking around Angelina at every turn would also be extremely appealing to younger patrons and indeed a number of them were present in the audience.

Catch La Cenerentola on tour at a venue near you, it’s a delicious fairy-tale delight not to be missed. Book here: La Cenerentola Tickets

Image credits: Jane Hobson 

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