Two exciting casts, a solid score, and staging as speedy as a runaway train: Seattle Opera audiences had a rollicking good time this past weekend with Rossini’s “Cinderella.”
Those who have already seen Australian stage director Lindy Hume’s work (beginning here with an uproarious “Count Ory” back in 2016) know to expect an almost frenetically energetic show, with the principals and chorus constantly engaged in all sorts of creative stage business. There’s even a production number featuring synchronized umbrellas. And the “Cinderella” conductor, Gary Thor Wedow, is a solid pro whose pacing and musical instincts are always right on target. The stage is literally set, then, for a show of considerable impact, provided the singers are up to snuff.
And these singers unquestionably are. On opening night, the stage was appropriately stolen by the title character, portrayed by Ginger Costa-Jackson, whose warm and agile mezzo-soprano is an ideal fit for this role. Rossini’s coloratura flourishes and speedy passagework pose no problems for Costa-Jackson, whose voice flows easily from the lower register to well above the staff, without any awkward transitions. She is an appealing actress, lovely to watch, and she riveted Saturday’s opening-night audience from start to finish.
Her prince, Michele Angelini, is a bright and agile tenor with more high Cs than a pirate movie, and he was an ardent, engaging suitor for this Cinderella. His upper range, extending even beyond the high Cs, overlapped the mezzo-soprano register to beautiful effect in their duets. This prince and servant girl made a convincing couple, both musically and dramatically.
Baritone Joo Won Kang had a great time as the Prince’s suave servant, Dandini, who trades places with his master to reveal whether the Prince is loved for himself or merely for his royal status. (The former, of course.)
On Sunday, three new singers took over the principal roles. Wallis Giunta sang Cinderella with a beautiful and subtle tone production that seemed to grow in strength to the final scene, which shone with her brilliant passagework and confident high notes. Her prince, Matthew Grills, provided a well-nuanced tenor and a savvy stage sense; his scenes with Cinderella were tender and sensitive enough to make one believe in their “love at first sight.” Baritone Jonathan Michie was an effective and highly active Dandini.
And there was more good news from the supporting cast: the warmth and dignity of baritone Adam Lau as the wise tutor, Alidoro, a pivotal figure in this show. The uproariously funny father, Don Magnifico, is portrayed with all of his character faults by bass-baritone Péter Kálmán, a rousing good singer with great comic instincts.
Here’s where the cast gets interesting: Ginger Costa-Jackson, the opening-night Cinderella, has two singing sisters in real life — Miriam and Marina, both of them sopranos. In this production, Miriam portrays one of the highly active and wicked stepsisters, Clorinda, who joins with the other stepsister, Tisbe (sung by Maya Gour), in frantically chasing the Prince and giving Cinderella a hard time. (All three Costa-Jackson sisters will be onstage together soon for a “Three Singing Sisters” concert on Nov. 2 at McCaw Hall.)
The “Cinderella” production is set not in fairy-tale mythological time, but in London during the mid-19th century, as we are reminded by the frequent flourishing of Union Jacks. The charming and imaginative Dan Potra set, featuring a multifaceted emporium owned by Cinderella’s father Don Magnifico, opens and closes and moves to suit the action. And there is action aplenty, including John Keene’s busy all-male chorus — some of whom are dressed as buxom, bearded servant women to great effect.
Finally, bravo to Seattle Opera’s indispensable Jonathan Dean, who translates and writes the supertitles projected above the stage, for having one of the wheedling stepsisters calling her prey “Princykins.” It brought down the house.
Seattle Opera presents Rossini’s “Cinderella,” through Nov. 1; Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St.; tickets from $35; 206-389-7676, seattleopera.org