November 11, 2023
Boston Lyric Opera Delights in Updated Take on Rossini's 'La Cenerentola' ('Cinderella')
Ed Tapper READ TIME: 4 MIN.
Boston Lyric Opera's final 2023 offering is an absolutely delightful production of "La Cenerentola," Rossini's rendition of the Cinderella tale. The Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre is an ideal venue for the modestly scaled, comic masterwork.; and, under the unerring baton of conductor David Angus, the performing forces gave a solid, and often dazzling performance which nearly brought down the house.
BLO had publicized its "La Cenerentola" as being set in contemporary Boston. However, outside of a few words changed in the libretto, little in the production design made that clear. Nonetheless, the sets were quite imaginative, and well suited the comic spirit of the work. The costumes were altogether terrific: colorful, fanciful and visually appealing. It was great to see splendid gowns in an era when jeans and t-shirts are obligatory in updated productions. The teal gown that the heroine, Angelina, wears at the end of act 1 was a standout, making her appearance at the ball quite magical. As Rossini composed his opera at the height of the early 19th century Bel Canto period, the technical demands of the music require an expert, virtuoso troupe of singers. BLO assembled a group of gifted young performers who sang and acted their roles to perfection.
The leading role of Angelina, La Cenerentola, lies primarily in the middle register of the voice, and mezzo Cecelia Hall was an ideal choice for the part. Her voice is quite rich in the middle, with a warm and beautiful timbre. She is more a lyric than a coloratura mezzo, but she managed to admirably negotiate all the bravura passages in the famous, final aria, "Non piu mesta." Her acting was quite natural, and she created a convincing and sympathetic heroine.
Like Ms. Hall, tenor Levy Sekgapane made his BLO debut with this production, and, as is the case with his colleague, the South African tenor is gaining international acclaim for his singing. He possesses an attractive, supple, lyric tenor, which he used with dynamic nuance and overall intelligence in creating the role of the hero, Prince Don Ramiro. His extended, solo scene in the second half contained thrilling, bravura passagework and stratospheric, high notes that gave Florez and Brownlee a run for their monies. The aria elicited a thunderous ovation from the audience.
Baritone, Levi Hernandez made a terrific Dandini, the Prince's valet posing as his boss. Displaying remarkable agility, secure vocalism, and keen comic skills, he excelled in his role. Likewise, bass-baritone, Brandon Cedel was vocally superb as Angelina's stepfather Don Magnifico. His overripe interpretation, which went over-the-top at times, could be attributed to the conception of director Dawn M. Simmons, the award-winning Boston theater director making her BLO debut. Yet Cedel excelled in the physical comedy, carrying out all gags and gesturing as directed, and getting frequent laughs from the appreciative audience.
As Angelina's scheming stepsisters, both soprano Dana Lynne Varga and mezzo Alexis Peart were wonderful--- right on the money, vocally and comically. They were so fine in fact, that it was difficult to resent them as villainesses. Bass-baritone James Demler made a commanding Don Alidoro, the philosopher who helps orchestrate Angelina's happy ending.
Evil stepsisters notwithstanding, this Boston Cinderella was "wicked," good fun! There is one remaining performance on Sunday, November 12, at 3pm. The company will continue its season in February, 2024, with a true operatic rarity, "The Anonymous Lover," by the 18th century French composer Chevalier de Saint-Georges. For tickets and further information, visit BLO.Org .
"La Cenerentola" continues through November 12 at the Emerson Cutler-Majestic Theatre, 3pm. For ticket information, follow this link.