Film/Opera Review: Opera Roma: La Cenerentola

A filmed stage production of Opera Roma’s ‘La Cenerentola (Cinderella)’, captured live from Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera di Roma only a few weeks ago.

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This film presentation by Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas is of Opera Roma’s new production of La Cenerentola (Cinderella). With music by Gioacchino Rossini and libretto by Jacopo Ferretti, based on French libretto, it was captured live from Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera di Roma only a few weeks ago on 22 January 2016. It runs for a minute or two shy of three hours, is sung in Italian (with English subtitles) and is highly amusing and entertaining.

The folk story Cinderella is, of course, about a young woman living in unfortunate and oppressed circumstances that are triumphantly changed. The story is a moral one about unjust oppression with virtue eventually winning out over despotism and cruelty. It is interesting to note there are numerous versions of the tale throughout the world with the oldest coming from China. Probably the most popular version is by the Brothers Grimm published sometime between 1812 and 1815, only a few years before Rossini’s opera.

Rossini and Ferretti based their libretto mostly on a French version published in 1697 with some aspects deriving from later adaptations, but they also included some original treatments as well. Rossini and Ferretti’s version includes some major (but not unique) differences: there is no pumpkin carriage nor glass slipper; there is no magic and no fairy Godmother, and Cinderella doesn’t have to rush home before midnight; the stepmother is replaced by the stepfather. Importantly the meeting between the Prince and Cinderella is planned by one of the Prince’s trusted advisors and is entirely feasible in the real world, and Cinderella plans for them to meet again later – it’s not be accident. In once sense Cinderella solves her own problem, rather than passively accepting a solution devised by chance or someone else.

With the magic element stripped away, Rossinoi’s La Cenerentola becomes something quite different and is much more malleable in the hands of inspired designers and directors, which Opera Roma’s production has in spades. Director Emma Dante and Designer Carmine Maringola set the action on an uncluttered stage with a large, large decorative two-story rear wall with numerous shuttered windows. Various furniture items (chair, dressing mirrors etc) were wheeled on as needed and the action flowed seamlessly from one scene to the next. The costuming is inspired by ‘pop surrealism’ which fuses surrealism’s focus on dreams and the unconscious with pop art’s concern for the commonplace and shallow. The colours are strong and vibrant pastel tones, and the wigging is severe and exaggerated, especially for the two ‘ugly sisters’. There were occasioanl anachronisms that added to the fun, including designer spectacles and modern guns!

A key result of this is that Cinderella is joined by what might be described as ‘clones’ of herself – they are perhaps in her imagination – which are wind-up automatons who share her drudge of a life as she tends to her ever-demandign step-sisters and step-father. These ‘clones’ palpably underscore Cinderella’s servitude and remind us of the plight of exploited workers in today’s world. Similarly, the Prince’s staff are also automatons and they place a focus on his loneliness. The chorography given to the automatons by Manuela Lo Sicco is a joy to watch.

The prince was played by Argentinean tenor Juan Francisco Gatell, and he was excellent. His principal servant was played by Vito Priante with much style and smarminess. Italian mezzo-soprano Serena Malfi starred as Cenerentola with a strong and pure voice and strong acting. The ugly sisters were sung and acted splendidly by Damiana Mizzi and Annunziata Vestri. Although their characters are caricatures, they held back sufficiently to stop becoming gross. Their father was played superbly by Alessandro Corbelli. Conductor Alejo Pérez and the Orchestra of Teatro dell’Opera di Roma brought Rossini’s bubbly score to life.

A great show and well worth the visit to Palace Nova to see.

Reviewed by Kym Clayton
Twitter: @theatrekym

Rating out of 10: 8

La Cenerentola will screen again on 5, 6 & 9 March 2016 as part of the Palace Opera & Ballet cinema season, presenting the Royal Opera House, La Scala, Opéra National de Paris and Opera Di Roma – exclusive at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas.

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