Sunday, May 12, 2013

La Cenerentola, Pittsburgh Opera Presents the "Real Cinderella"

Pittsburgh Opera Takes Opera Buffa to New Heights
With Its Production of La Cenerentola
Hank Walshak

When it comes to opera, I’ve long been partial to Wagnerian sturm and drang. That is, until I experienced Rossini’s Italian, two-act, opera buffa, La Cenerentola. (Cinderella), beautifully set forth by the company of the Pittsburgh Opera.

For us non-Italian-speaking folks, the name, La Cenerentola, translates into the English, Cinderella.  Adapted from the French fairy tale, Cendrillon by Charles Perrault, the first performance of La Cenerentola took place in Rome in 1817.

The name, La Cenerentola (Cinderella) is another name for Angelina. The opera title, La Cenerentola, relates to the fireplace area near the cinders or ashes.  That’s where her step father, Don Magnifico, and half-sisters, Tisbe, played by Samantha Korbe, and Clorinda, played by Meredith Lustig, have assigned her. There, Angelina sits, like a scullery maid, after completing her chores.  One could imagine the opera being titled, “Maid of the Ashes.”

The abundance of vocal solos romanced me from the start. I fell in love with Angelina, played by Vivica Genaux. She plied her arias plaintively enough to arouse strong feelings of empathy and sympathy for her.    

The solos of Arthur Espiritu, who sang the role of the prince, Don Romiro made me believe his good sense to see into the self-seeking and ploys of her half-sisters, Tisbe and Clorinda. Don Romiro ultimately marries Angelina and raises her to royal stature.

Paolo Pecchioli, played Don Magnifico, just right as the blundering, laughable buffoon. But let’s not forget that this character is no more than a hollow, narcissistic drunk. , As Angelina’s step father, he defiantly repulses her entreaties to call her “daughter.”

Being a reductionist at heart, I loved the production of La Cenerentola, because the performances by the flesh-and-blood impresarios helped me to see past the fairy tale-ish, Disney treatment of Cinderella and to be more aware of her existential plight up to her marriage to Don Romiro.

La Cenerentola was a pleasure to watch, thanks to Set Designer, Erhard Rom’s creative use of pre-designed panels easily interchanged by a gathering of men in formal attire. Place changes—from the home of Don Magnifico to the royal house of Don Romiro—took place effortlessly, in a matter of moments.

La Cenerentola closes with Angelina, showing mercy to Don Magnifico, Tisbe, and Clorinda. Her doing so gives new meaning to the line from the Gospel of Matthew, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”
 Hank Walshak

              Communications Expert for Experts
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