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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 25, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 43
Cinderella at Seattle Opera: No bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, but plenty of madcap fun
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Cinderella at Seattle Opera: No bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, but plenty of madcap fun

by Alice Bloch - SGN A&E Writer

SEATTLE OPERA
LA CENERENTOLA
(CINDERELLA)
MUSIC BY GIOACHINO ROSSINI
LIBRETTO BY JACOPO FERRETTI
MARION OLIVER MCCAW HALL
October 20 (Sunday Matinee cast)
Also 10/23, 10/26 & 10/30


Did you know that there are more versions of the Cinderella tale, in more parts of the world, than of any other folktale? Me neither, until I attended Seattle Opera dramaturg Jonathan Dean's excellent (and free to ticket holders) pre-performance lecture. The company is fortunate to have a dramaturg as knowledgeable and entertaining as Dean (who also writes the always superb English captions displayed during performances). I highly recommend his presentations, which always enhance my understanding and enjoyment of opera.

The version of the Cinderella tale in Rossini's opera features a wicked stepfather instead of a wicked stepmother, a wise tutor instead of a fairy grandmother, and matching bracelets instead of a glass slipper. What this opera lacks in depth, it makes up in energy. Stage director Lindy Hume, who directed the standout production of Rigoletto at Seattle Opera a couple of months ago, contributes depth by emphasizing the importance of class distinctions in the story, and finds ingenious ways to hold the audience's interest and amplify the tremendous energy of Rossini's music.

The current production (which has already played in New Zealand, Australia, and Germany) is set in Victorian England. Cinderella's stepfather, played with appropriately broad humor by bass-baritone Péter Kálmán, who owns an emporium straight out of Dickens' Old Curiosity Shop. The shop folds and unfolds, moves up- and downstage, and swivels to become part of the prince's palace. Kudos to production designer Dan Potra and lighting designer Matthew Marshall for a clever, engaging technical production. I particularly enjoyed the send-up of theatrical conventions of scale and perspective. In one scene, set on the lawn of the palace, manicured trees upstage were much smaller than those downstage, and when the actors moved upstage, they looked enormous, and their efforts to hide behind the trees became increasingly comical.

All vocal performances were top-notch. As Cinderella, mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta sang beautifully, carrying off the florid coloratura passages with no apparent effort, and acted with appealing subtlety. Tenor Matthew Grills deployed a smooth, sweet voice befitting a prince. As the valet Dandini, who trades places with the prince for much of the opera, baritone Jonathan Michie showed great comic and vocal skill.

The performances that surprised me were those of sopranos Miriam Costa-Jackson and Maya Gour as the mean stepsisters. Their roles demand slapstick acting, which they provided in spades, all the while singing in gorgeous harmony - a difficult combination to pull off.

It's been a pleasure to watch young bass Adam Lau mature through many performances at Seattle Opera. As Alidoro, the prince's tutor and Cinderella's advocate, he sang with assurance, including some spine-tingling high notes (high for a bass, that is).

This opera has an all-male chorus, but Hume wanted to include maids as well as manservants in the prince's household. To carry this off, she dressed four burly, bearded men in maid uniforms, complete with pinafores. The result was simply delightful.

As always, the chorus members sounded great and threw themselves into challenging choreography and acting, as well. Bravo, guys - and bravo, chorusmaster John Keene.

And as always, the orchestra did a fabulous job under the leadership of conductor Gary Thor Wedow. Many passages in the score require the orchestra to stay in sync with very fast singing, and for the most part, Wedow kept everyone together. Special praise is due fortepianist Philip A Kelsey, bassoonists Luke Fieweger and Dana Jackson Bliss, and clarinetists Emil Khudyev and Laura DeLuca. The string section made a dramatically unnecessary thunderstorm in the final act a highlight of musical excitement.

For more information and to buy tickets, go to seattleopera.org.

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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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Cinderella at Seattle Opera: No bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, but plenty of madcap fun
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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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