Rossini (La) Cenerentola
This is a truly marvellous performance on all counts – staging, conducting and singing. Sir Peter Hall’s direction, his first attempt at Rossini, came in for some lukewarm reviews last summer. I cannot understand why. It manages to breathe new life into the routines without ever slipping over into farce, while exploring each character in some depth. Hildegard Bechtler’s sets, placing the opera in the period of its composition, and Moritz Junge’s costumes unerringly evoke the seediness of Magnifico’s abode and the elegance of the Prince’s palace. Everything is executed with the kind of precision and vitality that can only arise from the long period of rehearsal allowed for in the Sussex Downs.
Each character has been re-thought by Hall and is seen as a person, not as a caricature, allowing the true feelings that lie behind the comedy to emerge. That makes it very much the dramma giocoso of Rossini’s intention, not just an opera buffa. The sense of an ensemble on top form is underlined by Vladimir Jurowski’s exacting, pellucid and vivid interpretation, so that the music, like the libretto, is presented afresh. Results are as rewarding as they are invigorating, with the LPO in alert form throughout.
The superb cast has no weaknesses and many strengths. Ruxandra Donose may not have the idiomatic Italian timbre of Cecilia Bartoli (Decca, 11/01 – nla) but she is the more consistent singer, using her wide range and rich tone to startling effect. None of Rossini’s roulades fazes her; quite the contrary, she revels in them and dramatically combines pathos with a steely determination to improve Angelina’s downtrodden plight. She makes the concluding Rondo the triumphant climax it should be. Her youthful (24-year-old) partner, Russian tenor Maxim Mironov, proves an ideal Ramiro, fluent in every aspect of his role and delivering its appreciable demands in a light, pliant voice of delicate beauty.
The more rumbustious side is amply cared for by two native Italians. Luciano Di Pasquale is by turns a grotesque, fatuous, dangerous and obsequious, slightly OTT Don Magnifico, a bloated rogue with nefarious intentions. His singing is in the best tradition of Italian buffos. Simone Alberghini’s quizzical, deftly delivered Dandini is a pleasure to hear and watch. They revel in their subtle Act 2 duet ’Un segreto’. Better still is Nathan Berg’s thrustful, dominant, warmly sung Alidoro, ever watchful over his charge, casting a baleful eye on Magnifico and his dreadful daughters, both of them suitably shallow and bitchy. Sound and picture of excellent quality add to the extreme pleasure given by a DVD superior in every way to its nearest rival.