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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Metropolitan Opera Preview: La Cenerentola

Joyce Di Donato's dreams come true in Rossini's fairy tale.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
This hasn't actually happened onstage yet. Juan Diego Flórez (left) and Javier Camarena (right)
will both woo Joyce DiDonato (center) in the Met's La Cenerentola (background.)
All photographic elements s by Ken Howard and Marty Sohl © 2014 The Metropolitan Opera. 

All photo editing by the author.
The last production to premiere at the Metropolitan Opera this season also has one of the most appealing casts. Joyce DiDonato's Cinderella will be wooed by not one but two charming tenor Princes.

Cesare Lievi's 1997 production (originally created for Cecilia Bartoli) offers  an eccentric, slightly hallucinatory version of Rossini's masterpiece, with a visual sensibility borrowed from the paintings of Rene Magritte. From the clock-stuffed closets of the Prince's palace to the massive pasta fight that rings down the curtain on the Act I finale to the final rondo sung from the top of a three-story wedding cake, this is one of the Met's finest comic productions, absent from the stage only because of the vocal demands of the title role.

Here, those demands will be met by Joyce DiDonato, the beloved and thoroughly American star who stunned New Yorkers last season in the title role of Maria Stuarda and will return next season in the company's first-ever performance of Rossini's La donna del Lago. Opposite her: a platoon of Prince Charmings as Javier Camarena and Juan Diego Flórez are scheduled to split the performances between them. Metropolitan Opera principal conductor Fabio Luisi conducts.

There are a number of key differences between the traditional Cinderella fairy tale and the Rossini version which had to undergo certain alterations on its way to the stage:
  • The Wicked Stepmother is now the buffoonish Don Magnifico, a stock figure from Italian opera buffa. 
  • The Fairy Godmother became the Prince's (male) tutor Alidoro. 
  • In order to get the opera past the strict censors at the work's 1817 Rome premiere, the famous glass slipper became a simple bracelet. 
Despite all these changes, with its tuneful, constantly bustling music and rich slapstick good humor, Rossini's opera retains all the magic of the original story. Next to The Barber of Seville, this remains the composer's most popular comedy.

La Cenerentola opens April 21, 2014.
Recording Recommendations:
London Symphony Orchestra cond. Claudio Abbado (Deutsche Grammophon 1971)
Angelina/La Cenerentola: Teresa Berganza
Prince Ramiro: Luigi Alva
Dandini: Renato Capecchi
Don Magnifico: Paolo Montarsolo
This is one of Claudio Abbado's definitive Rossini recordings from the 1970s, using the critical edition of the score. Teresa Berganza has never been bettered on disc as Angelina, and Luigi Alva is in top form as Prince Ramiro. Mr. Abbado is a master of Italian repertory, and the set ssparkles with warmth, good humor and authentic Rossinian energy.

Tickets for La Cenerentola are available at MetOperaFamily.Org, by calling (212) 362-6000, or at the box office starting August 11.

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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.