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Thread: La Cenerentola at Greensboro Opera - Review

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    La Cenerentola at Greensboro Opera - Review

    La Cenerentola, ossia la bontŕ in triompho (Cinderella, or Goodness Triumphant)
    Dramma Giocoso presented by Greensboro Opera in three acts and two intermissions, sung in Italian, with English supertitles
    Music by Gioachino Rossini
    Libretto by Jacopo Ferretti based on the fairy tale Cendrillon by Charles Perrault
    Premiered in Rome, Italy, at the Teatro Valle, on January 25, 1817

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    Greensboro Opera in collaboration with The University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Music, Theatre and Dance has presented the opera on Friday August 28, 2015 at 8 PM at the Aycock Auditorium in Greensboro, North Carolina (this review is of the opening night), and is performing it again on Sunday August 30 at 2 PM. Tickets are still available for the second show. Click [here] for tickets or call 336-272-0160. Tickets are $15/45/65, group discount of $5 per ticket and $10 for a child.

    Associated event: Meet Cinderella Party, today (Saturday August 29) from 4 PM to 6 PM - meet the artists on the set - $10 per person or $25 per family - details [here].


    La Cenerentola Orchestra conducted by Willie Anthony Waters
    Greensboro Opera Chorus, chorus master James Bumgardner
    Stage Director and Producer, David Holley (Opera Lively interviewee - click [here])
    Scenery is provided courtesy of Virginia Opera, scenic designer Tony Fanning
    Costumes supplied by Malabar Limited, Toronto
    Wigs courtesy of Trent Pcenicni
    Lighting Designer/Technical Director, Jeff Neubauer
    Make-up, Deborah Bell
    Production Stage Manager, Anna Geer
    Fortepiano/répétiteur, Benjamin Blozan


    Cast in order of vocal appearance

    Clorinda, older daughter of Don Magnifico - soprano Julie Celona-VanGorden
    Tisbe, younger daughter of Don Magnifico - mezzo Clara O'Brien
    Angelina (Cinderella), step-daughter of Don Magnifico - mezzo Sandra Piques Eddy (Opera Lively interviewee - click [here])
    Alidoro, philosopher and tutor of Prince Ramiro - bass Timothy Jones
    Don Magnifico, baron of Montefiascone - bass Donald Hartmann (Opera Lively interviewee - click [here])
    Don Ramiro, prince of Salerno - tenor Andrew Owens (Opera Lively interviewee - click [here])
    Dandini, valet to Prince Ramiro - baritone Sidney Outlaw (Opera Lively interviewee - click [here])
    Lady-in-waiting, silent role, Beatrice Eddy

    Chorus, courtiers from Prince Ramiro's palace, tenors and basses - Derek Gracey, Lucas Johnston, John Jones, Jacob Kato, Brian Kilpatrick, Baker Lawrimore, Wendell Putney, Benjamin Ramsey, John Warrick, and D'André Wright


    Production photos below are kindly authorized by Greensboro Opera and by the photographer, and credited to Artisan Image/David Wilson


    La Cenerentola (Cinderella) is Rossini's second most famous comic opera, only behind his The Barber of Seville. He composed it in 24 days, eleven months after The Barber, and it shares with the latter the same pattern of bel canto-style coloratura arias, funny "thinking" ensembles, and acrobatic, speedy "patter" songs. It's a bit more compact and faster-paced than The Barber, so that the comic flare never seems to drop: the opera is genuinely funny, especially when interpreted by good comedians who are able to provoke laughing-out-loud moments. While its best quality is arguably the high comedy, musically it doesn't drop the ball either, with gorgeous moments such as "Miei rampolli femminini" by Don Magnifico, the famous "Come un'ape ne' giorni d'aprile" by Dandini, soaring "Si, ritrovarla io giuro" for the tenor Prince Ramiro, the fabulous ensemble "Questo č un nodo avviluppato," and arguably the opera's best known piece, a staple of the mezzo repertory (originally written for contralto), "Nacqui all'affanno ... Non piu mesta" for the title role. While its overture is less compelling than some of Rossini's most prized pieces, it is still a nice one.

    Rossini is best known to the general operatic public for his comedies (to the two above mentioned, we'd add the extremely funny L'Italiana in Algeri), but we do encourage our readers who haven't done it yet, to explore his serious operas which are downright spectacular, such as among others, Guillaume Tell, Maometto II, Mosč in Egitto, La Donna del Lago, Ermione, and his very worthy Otello, which unfortunately got smothered by its more famous cousin composed by Verdi.

    Back to the funny stuff: it is always nice to see live one of Rossini's comic gems, especially in a well-acted production like this one by Greensboro Opera. The company, after some troubled times due to the economic crisis, has re-surfaced in all force with a stupendous production of La Fille du Régiment last January, and now has followed-up with another very good show.

    Patrons should not miss the opportunity to see this opera tomorrow, given that tickets are still available.

    This production has many merits. The brightest elements belong to the singers/actors and to the stage direction.

    Greensboro Opera was able to cast a very talented group, to the point that even seasoned operagoers who know this piece very well and are used to the standards set by some of the greatest recordings in audio and video (such as the DVDs with Opera Lively interviewees Frederica von Stade and Elīna Garanča) were not let down. All four principal singers were wonderful.

    Donald Hartmann and Sidney Outlaw couldn't have better comedic chemistry. Their moments together were remarkable and brought the house down with laughter. They were helped by very clever make-up that brought a smile to the public's faces from the moment they first entered the stage.

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    Donald Hartmann, second from the left, and Sidney Outlaw, center

    Singing-wise, both artists were rather perfect, with good pitch control in the lower register and excellent agility during the patter songs.

    Andrew Owens as Ramiro passed the tenor duties with flying colors, showing exquisite Italianate phrasing and a secure top (he added some high notes to Rossini's original writing).

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    Andrew Owens as Ramiro

    Sandra Piques Eddie was incredibly charming in the title role. She seduced the public with a luminous, vivacious stage presence helped by her striking good looks, expressive eyes, and ability to manage her facial features with sophisticated acting. Her singing was superb, with a very powerful upward extension after the passagio resulting in great projection, and easy navigation of the role's range of two and a half octaves, with no trouble whatsoever with the low notes - she didn't lose any volume in both ends of the range, and her timbre of voice was lush and pleasant. What an artist!

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    Sandra Piques Eddy as Angelina

    In terms of comprimario roles, Timothy Jones was a good surprise as Alidoro. The tall, imposing bass had the physique du rôle for the dignified tutor, and the singing to match. Julie Celona-Van Garden and Clara O'Brien did vocally well as respectively Clorinda and Tisbe, although their acting in the first scene started a bit cold (but improved as the opera went on).

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    Julie Celona-Van Garden, left, and Clara O'Brien, right, as the two sisters

    The chorus was better at singing than at acting in the static scenes but added funny touches especially in the chariot scene.

    Singing overall earns an A++ from Opera Lively with homogeneous quality (we virtually could not spot a single off-note by this talented cast), and acting especially by Hartmann, Outlaw, and Piques Eddy scores an A+.

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    Ramiro and Angelina

    Unfortunately we can't be as complimentary of the orchestra and conducting, which did sputter a bit. Generally, the strings were muted as compared to the brass, accounting for some dynamic unbalance, not to forget that the overall volume was excessive for proper support of bel canto singers. Transitions were rough on the edges and synchrony with the stage failed in some spots, especially during the patter songs, with the pace of the orchestra falling behind the singers. The strings did well, though (if only the other sections didn't smother them), and so did the accompaniment for the recitatives. Overall, B-. Hopefully for the second performance the orchestra will hush a bit.

    Physical aspects of the production were very appropriate. The rented scenery while not striking, did the job (B), but the locally made chariot added a nice touch to the props (A-). Traditional costumes were good enough (B+) and wigs and make-up were rather on the plus side (A+). Lighting was somewhat timid but did not get in the way (B).

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    Scenery for the palace

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    Scenery for Don Magnifico's home

    Stage direction by David Holley was another bright spot. Much of the success of La Cenerentola resides in the director's ability to implement funny touches, and they were plenty, in this production. Among others, examples were Don Ramiro jerking back his face as Don Magnifico talked in close proximity, signaling that the old man was spitting on him while talking; the hilarious food fight preceded by other funny uses of the food props such as Ramiro playing air guitar with a baguette; Don Magnifico's manipulating his daughters like they were ventriloquism dummies; the very successful chariot scene with members of the chorus doubling as horses; and the interesting hand movements by Alidoro, who appeared to be controlling strings and managing the other characters like marionettes. Blocking for the ensemble pieces was ingenuous, such as putting the five singers in a cluster with their backs to each other. These and other directorial touches made the opera fresh and surprised even those who have seen their share of Cenerentolas. A++

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    The food fight

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    The chariot scene

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    Ensemble scene

    In overall terms, this is an extremely well-sung, well-acted, and well-directed production (respectively with scores of A++, A+, and A++ in these all-important aspects) that fulfilled the comedic and singing aspects of this piece in very satisfactory manner. The public yesterday had a good time and the same will undoubtedly happen tomorrow, so we encourage all readers who are at driving distance to attend the matinee.

    Greensboro Opera did it again, putting together a show with some high peaks of sheer talent.

    For future productions, we encourage patrons to also purchase the supplement of $20 over the price of the prime seats, which gives access to the "Meet the Artists" reception after the opening night show (Greensboro Opera makes available this package for $85 which allows patrons to pick a seat anywhere in the prime rows that normally go for $65, with the benefit of meeting the nice artists over good wine and food).

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    Meet the Artists reception, Opera Lively picture

    We enjoyed this opportunity to chat informally with all five of our interviewees Ms. Piques Eddy and Misters Holley, Hartmann, Outlaw, and Owens. We learned that charming Ms. Piques Eddy is a big fan of Amália Rodrigues, the great Portuguese Fado late singer, and we were witness to how proud Mr. Outlaw's former voice teacher from UNC-G is of what the young man has become. We loved chatting with veteran Mr. Hartmann whose willingness to share his wealth of experience in opera is instructive. We praised Mr. Owens for his vocal prowess, and learned "in off" from Mr. Holley about a very exciting development regarding future goals for his Greensboro Light Opera and Song group, which we can't announce yet but will be following with interest.

    It was a great night of opera in Greensboro, and we look forward to their next production.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); August 29th, 2015 at 08:00 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  2. #2
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Given the reference to Amália Rodrigues above, for those who have never heard of her, here is a video clip:

    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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