Imaginative, fast-paced, irresistibly funny: Seattle Opera’s production of “Cinderella” (“La Cenerentola”) unites rambunctious comedy and spectacular singing in a show that will entrance the whole family. This remarkable staging features characterizations so distinctively drawn — and so expertly sung — that you almost don’t want to laugh, because you might miss some spectacular coloratura riffs from the cast.
And then, there’s the rats: six of them, cleverly costumed humans so whimsically adorable and brilliantly choreographed (by Xevi Dorca) that they rivet the eye while serving as a sort of mute Greek chorus, observing and contributing to the action. The rats move furniture, dispose themselves attentively about the set, and even whip out hankies to dab their endearing little noses at a particularly touching moment in the finale.
There’s literally never a dull moment in this production, ingeniously designed by Joan Guillén and cleverly staged by Joan Font. Every detail of the constant action underlines the character development and relates directly to the music and the libretto. This “Cenerentola” is co-produced by the Houston Grand Opera, the Welsh National Opera, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu and Grand Théatre de Genève, and it’s a production that deserves substantial international exposure.
All the roles are sung and acted with a wealth of vocal and dramatic detail, in fully realized and hysterically funny portrayals that are attentively accompanied by conductor Giacomo Sagripanti (in his U.S. debut). The lyrical orchestral sound is enhanced by a period-replica fortepiano (with Sagripanti playing) that’s just the right texture for this work.
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The Italian mezzo-soprano Daniela Pini, making her U.S. debut in the title role, is astonishingly good: her voice is rich, full, and remarkably agile and accurate throughout the role’s considerable range. Her appealing stage presence and affecting acting add to the impressive vocal goods.
Fortunately, this Cinderella gets an appropriately excellent Prince: tenor René Barbera, whose high Cs and Ds are as viscerally exciting as his bravura coloratura technique, and who also can caress a vocal line with smooth, easy intimacy.
The two wicked stepsisters, both Seattle Opera Young Artists, certainly are great arguments for the worth of that program. Dana Pundt (Clorinda) and Sarah Larsen (Tisbe) are witty actresses and compelling singers; they play off each other with considerable comic finesse.
The men in the cast all seem to be having a terrific time, from Patrick Carfizzi’s spectacularly comic Don Magnifico to Brett Polegato’s suavely funny Dandini. Arthur Woodley brings both warmth and gravity to his “fairy godfather” role of Alidoro. The men of the Seattle Opera chorus, choreographed to the hilt, sing and cavort with evident enjoyment.
And hooray for Guillén’s costumes: He has the mean stepsisters decked out in wigs that appear to have been lifted from “The Simpsons,” and presents Don Magnifico in a pointy-hat pajama outfit that might be described as Pagliacci meets the Ku Klux Klan. (The outfit was slightly modified on Sunday, when Valerian Ruminsky took on the role with generally favorable results.) There were a few hiccups in the Sunday show, but Karin Mushegain — an excellent singing actress — sailed through the title role with an assured performance of her florid arias.
Tenor Edgardo Rocha, who was to sing Sunday, was indisposed, and Barbera returned in his stead, with a performance that was if anything even more assured and energetic than on the night before. What stamina!
Melinda Bargreen also reviews concerts for 98.1 Classical KING FM. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.