By Sebastian Purcell
La Cenerentola was a wonderfully staged concert by Victorian Opera in the beautifully sounding and designed Elisabeth Murdoch Hall of the Melbourne Recital Centre. La Cenerentola (or Cinderella) was a really accessible opera for new and experienced opera goers alike.
From composer Gioachino Rossini and librettist Jacopo Ferretti the story of Cinderella takes a slightly different approach to the modern fairytale many would know. In this version, it is the Prince (Mert Sungu) that is in disguise as a valet, unbeknownst to the townsfolk, rather than Cinderella (Margarita Gritskova). The Prince sends his loyal companion Dandini (Stephen Marsh) to court Don Magnifico’s (Teddy Tahu Rhodes) daughters Clorinda (Rebecca Rashleigh) and Tsibe (Shakira Dugan) and bring them to the palace ball so he can then chose a wife. However, Cinderella, who is initially denied her request to attend by her stepfather (another change from our modern fairytale), is whisked away to the ball in a magnificent gown by a transformed beggar-come-tutor Alidoro (Michael Lampard).
While sung in Italian, there are English surtitles; I did feel these were not really necessary with such a familiar storyline, emotive score and performance from the cast. It’s a comedy and love story at the heart, with ample levity for an enjoyable night. The cast shine with their impeccable vocals, and the acoustics of the theatre makes listening the soaring tones of Margarita Gritskova such a joy.
On a production note, the costuming was detailed and vibrant. The lighting design (Peter Darby) is bright with the biggest change occurring during a storm scene where, between the orchestration and the lighting, I felt as though I was in the middle of the storm. The direction and staging (Elisabeth Hill-Cooper) was simple and clean but effective for the cast to deliver.
The Victorian Opera Chamber Orchestra gave a flawless performance and were such a joy to listen to, tightly conducted by Richard Mills. You could see their enjoyment throughout and it was lovely to see them centre stage and lit for the entire production.
A highly enjoyable evening, showing why Melbourne is the cultural and theatre capital, where local and international talents combine to produce a vibrant operatic concert for all ages.
For Victorian Opera’s 2023 Season visit https://www.victorianopera.com.au/season/2023
Photo courtesy of Victorian Opera