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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

DVD Review: La Cenerentola from the Met

Welcome to the layer cake: Lawrence Brownlee and
Elina Garanca in 
La Cenerentola.
Photo © 2008 The Metropolitan Opera/UMG
This 2-DVD set preserves Elena Garanca's breakthrough performance in the title role of Rossini's comic fairy tale, as well as this wonderfully surreal production., which was originally designed for Cecilia Bartoli.

The staging, by the Italian team of Cesare Lievi (production) and Marizo Balò, (costumes and sets) combines Magritte-inspired surrealism (closets full of clocks, inexplicable stage fires, and the chorus dressed in suits and bowler hats) with a sense of bold slapstick that is entirely suited to Rossini. A small regret: this 2008 revival failed to include the apocalyptic onstage spaghetti fight that brought down the house at the premiere. (The Met costume department may be tired of cleaning marinara stains from the costumes.)

Garanca shines as Angelina, the "Cinderella" of the title. She has a resonant, finely controlled mezzo with a a warm deep range, and is capable of reaching the heights required by the final aria of this opera. It doesn't hurt the presenation that she is a good comic actress with the fresh quality needed for this role. The acid test of this role is the final scene, a long and difficult rondo where the much put-upon Angelina forgives her family for their abuses and begins her new life in the arms of her Prince atop of a giant wedding cake.

Lawrence Brownlee is a regular player in the Met's current Rossini craze, appearing in this season's stagings of Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Armida. He has a soaring bel canto instrument, and sings sweetly in the slower cantabile sections of his arias. Brownlee proves himself capable of navigating Rossini's difficult cabaletta sections, where the notes pile on top of each other in a dazzling display of  technique. However, his Act II aria was marred by a tendency to pull up sharp when he opened up his voice and reached for the highest notes. Things improved at the end of the act, and his Recognition scene with Garanca had this strong tenor back to form.

Alessandro Corbelli gives a magnificent performance as Don Magnifico. He plays the wicked father with more humanity, eschewing the cartoonish business that usually mars this character. Perhaps his experience in the role of the valet, Dandini gives him greater perspective?

In turn, Simone Alberghini is a fine Dandini, giving a comic performance that recalls Figaro at his very best. Rachelle Durkin and Patricia Risley are "absolutely fabulous" as the two evil sisters. John Relyea is a sonorous presence as Alidoro, the "golden angel" who takes the role of "fairy godmother" in this version of the tale. That man can really rock an ice cream suit with a pair of golden wings sprouting from his back.

This DVD was originally released as a "Met Live in HD" broadcast, hosted by Thomas Hampson. The copy reviewed had the disc labels backwards, with Act I on Disc 2 and vice versa. Hopefully, this problem has been corrected in future pressings of this otherwise excellent set.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.