For me, 'La Cenerentola' is in the top 3 of Rossini's best operas along with 'Il Barbiere Di Siviglia' and 'William Tell'.
Rossini's music sparkles with wit and beauty, the story while confusing on first viewing with the whole stuff with Ramiro and Dandini's identity swap is very charming and the comedy is ingenious, especially with Magnifico and Dandini 'La Cenerentola' is one of the funniest operas ever written.
Of the numerous productions available, first choice would be the Jean Pierre Ponnelle film, though the Ann Murray, Kathleen Kuhlmann and Cecilia Bartoli productions are also splendid (thoroughly enjoyed Glyndebourne's too) and the Joyce Di Donato, Sonia Ganassi and the two Met productions are good. This 'Cenerentola' is my least favourite of the lot. Some great things, but considering the opera it could have been much better.
It is a mixed bag visually. The exterior locations while underused are beautiful and the costumes (especially the costumes for Ramiro and Dandini and Angelina's ballgown) are rich and sumptuous in colour. The ballroom scenes are also suitably opulent, and surprisingly the animated sequences not only were beautifully done but added a lot to the storytelling and solved potential problems with scene changes. The photography is sometimes solid and occasionally chaotic, the shots of the orchestra and Gianluigi Gelmetti were unnecessary and spoilt the impact. However the interiors of the family house do look as though the production was hindered by budget and it all looks studio bound, while some special effects like with Alidoro are less than magical and the stepsisters costumes are frightfully garish.
The direction has its moments, especially in the spectacular ballroom sequences, the cleverly staged sextet which was appropriately like a tangled web and Magnifico and the stepsisters' reform was believable. However, some of it was leaden, such as the dinner scene and some of the comedy with the stepsisters that was both overdone and under-characterised. And there are funnier productions of 'La Cenerentola', with the production lacking the sharp wit and spontaneity of live productions, which strongly suggests (although Ponnelle's film does a fantastic job in every aspect) that the opera works better on stage and that it doesn't always gel on film.
While one doesn't try to be bothered by cuts, it depends on whether it takes away from the flow or effectiveness of the storytelling. Rossini's music shines brilliantly here but it is cut for film constraints and it does hurt the story. An inexplicable cut is the omission of the crucial scene between Dandini and Magnifico when Dandini reveals his true identity, that's a comic highlight and absolutely blisters when done well and the climactic moments with all the principals together (or the penultimate scene) just doesn't make sense without that scene because anybody unfamiliar with the opera will question why Magnifico and the step-sisters didn't seem at all shocked at Ramiro and Dandini in their true guises.
Musically, the film does fare much better, with the orchestral playing capturing superbly the beauty and wit of the music, the chorus being lively and well blended if with little to do dramatically and their entrances veer on the unintentionally goofy and Gianluigi Gelmetti's crisp and authoritative conducting (adopting some very fast tempos) that accommodates the comic brilliance equally adeptly.
On the principal performances front, the singing fares better than the acting. The singing is excellent across the board with no weak links really. Lena Belkina has a darkness, agility and smokiness that sounds incredibly attractive, Edgardo Rocha is vocally ardent as Ramiro, Carlo Lepore starts slightly tired but warms up quickly and blisters in his pattering and passage work (which are incredibly difficult but superbly managed), Anna Kasyan and Annunziata Vestri are bell-like and richly voiced and have a lot of character in their voices, Simone Alberghini has a resonant and beautifully rounded voice that sounds at ease in his very florid music and Lorenzo Regazzo does a great job with his taxing aria.
Can't be as enthused with the acting, where only Belkina and Lepore really shine. Belkina is charming and touching even with not much to do and Lepore provides the film's most fully-rounded and most enjoyable characterisation (boy does he convince as a drunk). However, Rocha's ardent vocals don't translate in his acting which is stolid, Kasyan and Vestri's antics feel under-characterised and almost not nasty or witty enough, Alberghini has some amusing moments but is robbed of his meatiest moments and Regazzo shows off a kindly sympathetic side but does little more often than mugging for the camera which does distract.
In summary, has some incredibly good things but not enough wit or magic here. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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