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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 25, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 43
Seattle Opera presents brilliant staging of Rossini's Cinderella
Arts & Entertainment
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Seattle Opera presents brilliant staging of Rossini's Cinderella

by Linda Cumberland - SGN Guest Reviewer

SEATTLE OPERA
CINDERELLA
OR GOODNESS TRIUMPHANT
MUSIC BY GIOACHINO ROSSINI
LIBRETTO BY JACOPO FERRETTI
MARION OLIVER MCCAW HALL
October 19 (Opening Night cast)
Also 10/25, 10/27, 11/1


The opening night audience at Seattle Opera's Cinderella knew from the first note of the overture that this evening was going to be fun. In this version, set in Victorian England, opera guests as they arrive see a scrim depicting an enormous library, with a single chair and a small table on the stage. As the overture progresses, characters appear going about their business, eventually assembling around the prince to silently enact a vignette that invokes the theme of the story by hilariously employing a 21st century reference. When the scrim rises, we see 'Don Magnifico's Emporium', a storefront that swings open to reveal a delightfully cluttered interior, like a Value Village precursor, that will provide the cast with an array of props to take up at various moments.

The vocally demanding score, while wonderfully performed, does not prevent the cast members from physically portraying depth of feeling and over the top comedic realizations of their respective characters. Cinderella's family steal scene after scene with their performances, the sisters (Miriam Costa-Jackson as Clorinda, Maya Gour as Tisbe) with their primping, squabbling, and bullying; their father (Peter Kalman as Don Magnifico) with his drunkenness and self-deluding pretentiousness. The prince's valet Dandini (Kang Joo Won) revels in his incognito role as the prince himself, fending off but enjoying the advances of the sisters. The prince's tutor Alidoro (Adam Lau) offers the stabilizing element of wisdom and intercessor. When the prince Don Ramiro (Michele Angelini) and Cinderella (Ginger Costa-Jackson) finally meet, their encounter is relatable to any time or place, the prince's love at first sight reaction, Cinderella's similar reaction portrayed in sudden, endearing clumsiness.

Scene changes are ingeniously managed without pause in either act by having chorus members, in character, remove or add props that change the Emporium to a garden outside the palace, then into the interior of the palace, and finally to a balcony at the exterior of the palace.

As written, the chorus in this opera is all male, tenors and basses - a necessity dictated by the location of the original performance in Rome's Teatro Valle in 1817, but in this staging some of them are dressed as female characters such as would be expected in crowd scenes and among servants. This, too, is amusingly done, not by having them pretend to be women, but by having them simply perform in female costumes. It seems to be no accident that those selected to wear maids' costumes all have beards.

The visually rich staging is enhanced by the costumes, which capture the nature of each character with exquisite details that might not be visible to the audience without opera glasses, but which contribute to the sense of social class, social function, and individual personality.

The broad comedic performances had the audience laughing throughout, and even the supertitles got into the spirit at one point with a clever stroke that made us all burst out laughing. Indeed, the entire translation in the supertitles manage to provide contemporary wording or reference in a manner that preserves the overall meaning of the libretto but translates 19th century references, amusing to Rossini's audiences that would be meaningless to today's audiences, in a way that offers equivalent levity in the 21st century.

Recall that the opera's subtitle is 'Goodness Triumphant'. The classic rags-to-riches theme is accomplished but that is not where the story ends. The fulfillment of the ultimate theme of Goodness is reserved for Cinderella in a marvelous display of bel canto. In two separate arias she forgives her family and welcomes them into the palace, ending the opera on a note - well, many notes; this is bel canto, after all - that transcends the happy ending of an individual to an act of grace that embraces her family and by its example, the whole community.

As I was leaving, I had the opportunity to visit with a five-year-old girl and asked her how she liked it: Did she laugh? Did she think the Princess was pretty? Did she think Cinderella was right to forgive her sisters and father even though they had been mean to her? Yes, yes, and yes, came the shy but smiling answers. There weren't many children in the audience, considering the hour on a school night, but if this one brief encounter may serve as a testimonial, young people will enjoy this, too.

It is commonly noted that Rossini eschewed magic and the supernatural in his down-to-earth telling of the Cinderella story, but the Seattle Opera's brilliant staging of this beloved opera leaves its audience enchanted.

Performances of Seattle Opera's outstanding Cinderella run through November 1.

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Theatre22 presents 'A Festival of Revolution'
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Sandra Bernhard brings 'Quick Sand' to SJCC on Mercer Island Nov. 2!
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Seattle Opera presents brilliant staging of Rossini's Cinderella
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Rainbow City Concert Band presents 'Let It Shine' concert Nov. 9
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Short Run Comix & Arts Festival in Seattle Nov. 9
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5th Avenue's Austen's Pride - enchanting and fulfilling
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CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
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'Experiment in Terror' October 31
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
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Eggers' Lighthouse a suspenseful maritime yarn of isolation and madness
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Gritty Black and Blue a disappointing urban thriller
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Novel Countdown a deathly ticking clock of supernatural stupidity
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