WNO Cenerentola review

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE IS BEATEN OVER THE HEAD WITH KEN DODD'S TICKLING STICK

LA CENERENTOLA

WELSH NATIONAL OPERA AT BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME ***

Rossini disingenuously designated his Cinderella opera a dramma giocoso – as Mozart did with Don Giovanni – but Rossini gives us pure froth. Joan Front's production revels in its lack of substance: costumes, sets and make-up are a riot of garish colours, like a pantomime where almost everyone looks like Widow Twanky. The comic action is broad, all in upper case, triply underlined, with exclamation marks. It felt like being nudged in the ribs for three hours while simultaneously being beaten over the head with Ken Dodd's tickling stick. The music itself often sounds like a parody of Rossini's stylistic tics with every vocal line encrusted barnacle-like with grace notes and trills while the music roller-coasters up and down with frequent crescendos. The orchestra under Tomas Hanus played it for all it was worth – and more.

All praise to the singers who, like real troupers, threw themselves (sometimes literally) into their roles. As Angelina (Cenerentola) the Irish mezzo Tara Erraught was vocally charming, with excellent breath control and smoothly delivered fioratura crowned by her celebratory Non più mesta aria. As her step-sisters Aoife Miskelly (Clorinda) and Heather Lowe (Tisbe) were an enjoyably bitchy gruesome twosome while Wojtek Gierlach, as the Prince's wise-old advisor Alidoro remained dignified amidst the comic mayhem. WNO wisely had three excellent Italian singers – Fabio Capitanucci (Don Magnifico), Giorgio Caoduro (Dandini) and Matteo Macchioni (Don Ramiro) – for Rossini's tongue-twisting texts and machine-gunner patter arias. Macchioni's prince-in-disguise was elegantly sung and adept at his comedy double-act routine with manservant Dandini.

Norman Stinchcombe

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