Questionable visually but mostly fun and consistently excellent musically
La Cenerentola is one of Rossini's best, the music is witty and beautiful and the libretto, while confusing at first for those not as familiar with it, sparkles with the ingenious comedy it has. This production was good if not great, I have much more of a preference to the Ann Murray, Cecilia Bartoli, Kathleen Kuhlmann and especially Federica Von Stade versions. The problems had were mostly visually. The sets are handsomely constructed and are far from ugly but they do have a tendency to look gloomy rather than opulent. The hairstyles for the men were pretty disastrous as well, Florez excepted. Pratico's was very over-the-top but forgivable as it fitted well with the character, but Dandini's orangey-blond hairstyle did not suit De Candia, jarred with the look of the production and could be seen as anachronistic, Nicola Ulivieri looks as though he'd come straight out of auditioning for Edward Scissorhands and the idea to have the male chorus bald got lost on me. None of the staging is distasteful in any way, but some of it is cluttered with people literally climbing over very over-sized objects and some of it could have had more energy and a bigger spectacle. Most of the staging though is very witty and funny with an admirably neat approach, but much of that's to do with the acting of the principals.
Some of it is subtle and some of it broader but never over-compensated. Musically and performance-wise there is very little to complain about if at all. The orchestral playing is stylish and energetic yet nuanced and warm in tone while the chorus project well and their sound is great. Carlo Rizzi's conducting helps, it is lively, disciplined and musical with great dynamic contrasts and appropriate tempos(though at times he does take his time too much). Of the principals, for me the standout was Bruno Pratico, he is hilarious and seems to be enjoying himself thoroughly without mugging or falling into caricature, his singing is full and robust with sly vocal expression and crisp diction. Juan Diego Florez is another standout, he has given better performances since here but his voice is honeyed and flexible with easy-sounding high notes and lyrical phrasing- perfect for Rossini- and he is dashing and poised as Ramiro. I've heard and seen better Dandinis particularly Gino Quillico and Claudio Desderi, but Roberto De Candia has a lovely rich tone and rock-solid comic timing, his runs and pattering are clear enough too. Nicola Ulivieri is appropriately kindly as Alidoro and while not a large voice- not a surprise seeing as he is quite young for Alidoro- his voice is most pleasing. Ekaterina Morozova and Sonia Prina look beguiling and are amusing, though their direction could have been stronger, and in the title role Sonia Ganassi impresses. She is charming and gentle, as well as melancholic to start with, and always looks engaged(she may seem pallid compared to Pratico and De Candia, but to be honest that's inevitable seeing as comedically the roles of Magnifico and Dandini are far meatier) and while quite not as agile as Cecilia Bartoli, she sounds lovely and natural. All in all, not perfect from a visual standpoint but it was an entertaining production with great musical values and great performances all round. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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