Bristol Hippodrome

WNO La Cenerentola

October 2018

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GOOD COMPANY: From top left clockwise Tisbe (Heather Lowe) and Angelina (Aoife Miskelly) and Giorgio Caoduro as Dandini; Angelina (or Cenerentola/Cinderella) in her ragged garb is Tara Erraught both © JaneHobson and the six mice men with silver pointed faces © Bill-Cooper. Below is a scene from La traviata by Roger Donovan and the orginal Shrek! with a Amelia Lily as the lookalike Fiona and Steffan Harri and Amelia Lily in Shrek the Musical UK and Ireland tour 2018 © Tristram Kenton

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BANQUET AT BALL: Giorgio Caoduro as Dandini, Tara Erraught as Angelina and Matteo Macchioni as Don Ramiro © Jane Hobson

Once upon a time in opera

A kaleidoscope of neon colours and comedic sounds and being a sucker for a happy ever after ending I loved this opera.

Welsh National Opera staged two production revivals of La traviata and La Cenerentola at the Bristol Hippodrome this week and we were lucky enough to get to see (and hear) the latter performed on Friday night.

La Cenerentola is a social satire based on the fairystory of Cinderella with people juggling for status according to their wealth or standing in society.

It is funny but when I wander around a budget supermarket I feel like a posh person who took my trolley up the wrong aisle in Waitrose but sitting in the stalls on an opera night I’m like someone from the band Pulp when they sang about the ‘common people’.

And LOL this audience doesn’t appear to be full of pleps which is somewhat appropriate for this production.

The original folk story is changed so the stepmother becomes a stepfather and the Godmother is a wise man.

There are no glass slippers (although plenty of designer shoes) and instead we have sparkly diamond jewellery. 

All the principal players were magnificent – Angelina (or Cenerentola/Cinderella is sung by Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught) looks like the red-headed Princess Fiona from Shrek! swinging her ponytail, half-sisters Tisbe (mezzo soprano Heather Lowe) and Clorinda (soprano Aoife Miskelly) wore beehive wigs which could have been borrowed from Marge Simpson, valet Dandini made the best entrance prostrate on a two-headed wooden horse (Giorgio Caoduro), cruel stepfather Baron Don Magnifico portrayed just the right about of menace and buffoonery (Fabio Capitanucci), regal Prince of Salerno Don Ramiro (Italian tenor Matteo Macchioni) along with philosopher and the Prince's former tutor Alidora (Polish bass Wojtek Gierlach) all took several final bows along with music director Tomáš Hanus who conducted the WNO orchestra.

A special mention must go to the mice – whether on their knees or full-height these twitching and preening rodents stayed in character for the full three hours and acted as prop removal men, an outstanding feat of endurance and another special mention to the chorus who marched and paraded marvellously on and off the stage.

Gioachino Rossini’s opera premiered in Rome in 1817 and was last performed by WNO in 2007.

Rossini composed La Cenerentola in three weeks when he was 25 years old a year after his success with The Barber of Seville and it is sung in Italian with surtitles.

He saved some time by reusing an overture from La gazzetta, part of an aria from The Barber of Seville and by enlisting a collaborator, Luca Agolini, who wrote the secco recitatives and three numbers Alidoro's Vasto teatro è il mondo, Clorinda's Sventurata! Mi credea and the chorus Ah, della bella incognita.

Much has the sound of a repetitive but pleasant ditty sung in parts which all come together.

It was reported a few days ago that television presenter Kevin McCloud was shocked by a Grand Designs concrete house which he compared it to ‘nuclear bunker' – well Cinderella lives in something similar in La Cenerentola.

I like the set but when the double doors to the palace open it was a bit of a disappointment as apart from dry ice there wasn’t anything to see and the double-height chimney got in the way of the gantry.

Otherwise it was fine.

The costumes stole the show – Regency elegance mixed with circus coordinates put together by Joan Guillén.

Lots of lovely little touches – the deadpan royal face when handed a broom to sweep, garish facial hair, the piss-up in the wine cellar, circular bustles which looked like swimming aids, mismatched patterns, breeches covered in top coats with crinoline-style hoops, Christmas cracker hats and Dame Edna Everage shades. 

This is a visually and musically vibrant telling of a story which so often is turned into a smutty panto although I think I heard the Baron allude to prostituting himself for female favours?

But in the end our domestic goddess is saved from being ‘throttled, thrashed and murdered’ by marrying the prince and ignoring the #metoo movement.

Sadly she forgives her brutal bullies and fulfils every little girl’s dream of marrying a prince -so last century!

Faultless timing, contemporary dance moves and lots of asides only the finale was a strange as we fully expected Angelina to reappear in her Madonna white ballgown?

Carol Deacon

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Steffan Harri and Amelia Lily in Shrek t