Cinderella | La Cenerentola – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review
by P. Viale
IRISH NATIONAL OPERA: CINDERELLA | LA CENERENTOLA
Loosely based on Charles Perrault’s fairy tale of Cinderella, Irish National Opera’s production of Rossini’s masterpiece in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre is a triumph from start to finish. Even as we enter the theatre, book covers of familiar fairy tales, projected on the curtain, hint at the magical evening that lies ahead of us. During the lively overture the characters of these tales, Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood and others, play out their stories, ending with the tale of Cinderella from her birth in a loving family to the sad position of servant she finds herself in when the opera begins. In Rossini’s retelling of the story there is no evil stepmother. Instead, Cinderella lives with her pompous stepfather, Don Magnifico, and her two narcissistic half sisters, Clorinda and Tisbe.
The curtain rises on the two sisters, Clorinda (Rachel Croash) and Tisbe (Niamh O’Sullivan) in furious competition as they practise their party pieces, the rivalry intensifying as they learn that there is soon to be a ball at the palace. Each is determined that she will capture the heart of the young prince and they both turn in anger on Cinderella as she sings dreamily to herself of an ideal romance, “Una volta c’era un re”. When Alidoro, the prince’s tutor, (sung by the remarkable Croatian bass-baritone, David Ostrek), knocks at the door disguised as a beggar, he is rudely turned away by the sisters but Cinderella surreptitiously offers him food and drink. Her good deed is rewarded later in the opera when Alidoro returns with a coach and gown to take Cinderella to the ball.
Rossini strays from the traditional story also by adding a second disguise. The prince, Don Ramiro (American tenor, Andrew Owens) swaps clothes with his foppish valet, Dandini, (a masterly comic performance from Italian baritone, Riccardo Novaro) leading to the confusion and misunderstandings one often finds in Italian comic opera. But as in all fairy tales, we know that all will end well and that Cinderella will indeed marry her prince.
Director, Orpha Phelan’s production underlines the comedy in Rossini’s opera from the tantrums of the bickering sisters who turn into dimestore vamps in their efforts to trap the disguised Dandini to the futile machinations of their father, the bumptious Don Magnifico. The roles of Don Ramiro and Cenerentola are more reflective and their love story is told with delicacy and poignancy.
Nicky Shaw’s set is stunning and well deserved the round of applause it received when we moved to the ball scene. The giant spines of the books that decorate the stage become doors, slides and with the simplest of changes, Shaw alters the mood and pace of the story. The chorus and non-singing roles worked well but what made this a night to remember was the consistently high standard of singing and performance from the seven soloists. Croash and O’Sullivan were pitch perfect as the competing spiteful sisters and the resonant tones of their father (bass, Graeme Danby) seemed, at times, to come from his very boots. Andrew Owens’ Don Ramiro was a little tentative initially but his voice grew in warmth and confidence as the opera progressed and his second act cabaletta “Si, ritrovarla” was enthralling.
The star of the show, however, was without doubt, Tara Erraught in the role of Cinderella. A consummate actress, she captured both the fragility and determination of her character and her voice has an agility and sureness that captivated the audience throughout. Her final aria “Non più mesta”, rich in ornamentation, was delivered with a verve and a sense of humour that well deserved the spontaneous thunderous applause that greeted it. Too often in Ireland undeserving theatre and musical productions receive a standing ovation but here it was totally warranted and as the audience left the theatre you could hear many humming, not always tunefully, some of the wonderful music they had just heard.
There are performances on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday this week and you should check if there are still tickets available. You won’t regret it!