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This was the last matinée of the Met's 2008-2009 season and there is an end of term atmosphere about it, as though everyone just wants to get it over with and go away for the summer. It is a star vehicle for Elina Garanca but the Latvian ice maiden makes it clear in the interval interview with Thomas Hampson that she intends to do no more Rossini. Based on this performance, she is probably right. Although her coloratura is thrilling she really does not have the right personality for this sort of opera giocoso. She is quite in-your-face even in the early scenes with her stepfather and stepsisters. This is no subservient Cinderella. Similarly Alessandro Corbelli is a thoroughly nasty Don Magnifico with none of the redeeming dottiness that usually comes with this role.
There is a chorus of courtiers wearing dark suits and bowler hats who look as though they have stepped out of a Magritte painting. This is not as funny as it may sound. On the whole, this is a very grim Cenerentola which is short on laughs and long on scenery. Large opera houses sometimes fill their stages with huge sets. Often, as in this case, the effect is to make the performers look like midgets. This is particularly unfortunate for the vertically challenged tenor Lawrence Brownlee who plays Don Ramiro. Brownlee and the willowy Garanca certainly make an incongruous pair of lovers. In the final, most ridiculous, scene they stand together on a giant wedding cake. Garanca descends to do her big number while Brownlee remains, a lonely figure, gurning on top of the cake.
I was struck by the off-hand way that Elina Garanca summons conductor Maurizio Benini to take his bow at the end of the opera. It is the most half-hearted welcome that I have ever seen on an opera stage.
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