Most people don’t associate opera with comedy, but NZ Opera’s production of Rossini’s Le Cenerentola embraces its fun side; with jovial performances, farcical storyline, lavish sets and just the right amount of silliness. All this mixed in with those beautiful voices. What a treat.
This quirky version of the much loved Cinderella fairytale sees a tyrannical stepfather, along with his horrible vain and selfish daughters Clorinda and Tisbe, demand their every whim be catered for by poor Cinderella.
Meanwhile, Prince Ramiro is in search of a bride and is willing to search the land in order to find her. The Prince’s tutor Alidoro decides to trick the three sisters into thinking that he is a beggar, in order to identify their true nature. Of course, it is Cinderella who proves worthy, due to her warmth and kindness.
The Prince too wishes to ensure his beloved will be pure and kind, so decides to disguise himself as his Valet Dandini, and visa versa. Herein lies the set up for much hilarity, some unscrupulous flirting from Clorinda and Tisbe, heavy drinking from their father Magnifico, and ultimately a new princess in Cinderella!
The show starts off with a sort of olde- worlde Tinder where images of pretty ladies are projected onto a picture frame for the Prince to chose an eligible bride. The giggles come straight away, and this tongue in cheek style continues, even to the point of adding local references to one of the songs.
The set’s are phenomenal. When Don Magnifico’s Emporium first emerges, then moves forward and opens up to reveal the interior of the shop it really took my breath away. The staging continued to surprise and delight throughout: from palaces to secret wine collections, to garden parties, all were creative and looked spectacular.
Let’s talk men. John Tessier wins our hearts as the Prince. A commanding performance of unfaltering confidence and emotion, with excellent comic timing too. Marcin Bronikowski performs a brilliant Dandini, who relishes in his new found status only to be harshly brought back down to earth. Andrew Collis, as evil step father Don Magnifico, steals the limelight from all when he is on stage. His great characterisation means you can’t take your eyes off him, and his solo’s are a pleasantly unpredictable affair. Ashraf Sewailam, as Alidoro, proves to be every bit the ‘fairy godmother’, but with very much a dominant and enjoyable vocal range. The all male ensemble, the Freemasons NZ OPERA Chorus, are also exceptional.
Now for our ladies. Wicked stepsisters Clorinda and Tisbe, are played with enthusiastic abandon by Amelia Berry and Rachelle Pike. Thrusting, hair-flicking and shamelessly over doing it, they are a joy to watch, and indeed, listen to. Our princess from the night Sarah Castle as Cinderella, is suitably gorgeous and talented, keeping us hanging on her every note. A spirited emotional roller coster of a vocal performance, with some AMAZING frocks!
I never tire of hearing a the live Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra accompanying, and with such upbeat joyous music it’s a really uplifting aural feast.
The combination of a well know story and lighthearted comedy makes this show so accessible that I would imagine that the usual Opera demographic does not apply.
Le Cenerentola is the place to be for winter exuberance and laughs. A wonderful night out to feed your inner culture vulture.
La cenerentola is on at ASB Theatre until 7 June. [Sung in Italian with English surtitles.]
Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar.