San Francisco Opera Preview: LA CENERENTOLA (San Francisco Opera)

by Tony Frankel on November 5, 2014

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area

Post image for San Francisco Opera Preview: LA CENERENTOLA (San Francisco Opera)

GRANTING YOUR WISH FOR A FUN OPERA

Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola) was written in 1817 during the bel canto era when operas were written to showcase beautiful singing, and Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s charming witty, whimsical, and heartfelt San Francisco Opera production—running November 9–26, 2014 at the War Memorial Opera House—will showcase as Angelina (aka Cinderella) the debut of French mezzo-soprano Karine Deshayes, who performed the title role in this exact production at the Opéra National de Paris. Of her performance, Paris Update wrote, “Deshayes manages to be both touching and feisty, and, boy, does she deliver on the knockout aria that Rossini gives her at the very end.”

Efraín Solís (Dandini), Maria Valdes (Clorinda) and Zanda Švēde (Tisbe) in San Francisco Opera’s LA CENERENTOLA. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Directed for SF Opera by Gregory Fortner, a member of the directing staff at the Metropolitan Opera who brought lovely work to LA Opera with La Bohème), and conducted by the venerated Spanish conductor Jesús López-Cobos, this spirited and humorous audience favorite is a rousing and spirited cavalcade of fun. If the first act is a gorgeous and tasty pumpkin, then the second act is a magical coach which will transport you to a realm of enchantment.

Act I Dinner Party of San Francisco Opera’s LA CENERENTOLA. Photo by Cory Weaver.

With patter songs which are practically progenitors to Gilbert & Sullivan, Cinderella is specifically the type of presentation which will attract newcomers to opera, but forget the ever-popular Disneyfication of Charles Perrault’s 1697 version of this folk tale. Yes, Perrault introduced the Fairy Godmother, magical transformations and glass slippers, but librettist Jacopo Ferretti obviously knew that special effects would be hard to come by in Rome’s Teatro Valle, where the opera premiered. Plus, it was considered brazen to show a woman’s foot in the theater, so Ferretti gave Cinderella a bracelet, which she doesn’t lose but actually hands to her prince.

Christian Van Horn (Alidoro) and Karine Deshayes (Angelina) in San Francisco Opera’s LA CENERENTOLA. Photo by Cory Weaver.

The Grimm Brothers’ account—with an evil stepmom, pedal mutilation, and blinding by a white bird—is also out of the picture. The abuse in the opera begins on Ponnelle’s ornate black-and-white drawing of a scruffy, cracked and peeling manor house—like a children’s-book illustration à la Gustave Doré or Edward Gorey. The bad guy here is Don Magnifico, whose two vain, selfish and motherless daughters, Clorinda and Tisbe, taunt their loving stepsister Angelina, whose mother had also passed (I guess women would do anything to get out of a marriage with the unctuous Don). Soprano Maria Valdez, a first-year Adler Fellow making her SF Opera debut as well, will play Clorinda, and Latvian mezzo-soprano Zanda Švēde is Tisbe. In demand for his portrayal of comedic buffo parts, Spanish bass-baritone Carlos Chausson will chomp on the role of Cinderella’s manipulative stepfather Don Magnifico; Chausson, who has a long history with the Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu with over 21 roles there, also appears at SF Opera for the first time.

Karine Deshayes (Angelina) and René Barbera (Don Ramiro) in San Francisco Opera’s LA CENERENTOLA. Photo by Cory Weaver.

As is usually the case with comic opera, there are concealed identities (characters were often derived from those of commedia dell’arte): Prince Ramiro’s tutor Alidoro, disguised as a beggar, is investigating potential brides for the Prince. Alidoro is treated kindly by Cinderella, so he alerts the Prince, who later arrives disguised as his valet. Cinderella and the incognito Prince are immediately molto attratti l’uno dall’altro (that means they’re hot for each other).

Karine Deshayes (Angelina) and the San Francisco Opera Chorus in San Francisco Opera’s LA CENERENTOLA - photo by Cory Weaver.

Meanwhile, the Prince’s valet Dandini, disguised as the Prince, invites everybody back to the palace ball. When the Don is asked about his third daughter, he says she’s dead and all leave without our heroine. Alidoro returns to outfit Cinderella and escort her to the palace…and this is just half-way through the first act. Suffice it to say that more confusion ensues, along with true love, forgiveness, and a lot of alcohol consumption—so, kids, don’t forget to bring your parents.

Karine Deshayes (Angelina) and the San Francisco Opera Chorus in San Francisco Opera’s LA CENERENTOLA. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Mexican-American baritone Efraín Solís, who appeared in SF Opera’s Madama Butterfly and Un Ballo in Maschera, will sing the role of Dandini (replacing Italian baritone Fabio Capitanucci who has withdrawn from the production for health reasons). Company regular American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn will sing Alidoro. Joining the players who will be perfectly pronouncing the pizzicato-esque fast-paced patter with aplomb is American tenor René Barbera as the dashing Prince Don Ramiro; I still laugh at Barbera’s hysterical character-driven choices in the L.A. Opera production, such as when he was handed a broom and didn’t know how to operate it.

Karine Deshayes (Angelina), Christian Van Horn (Alidoro) and René Barbera (Don Ramiro) in San Francisco Opera’s LA CENERENTOLA - photo by Cory Weaver.

All performances will feature an informative Opera Talk by conductor, composer and educator Giancarlo Aquilanti. Talks begin fifty-five minutes before each performance in the orchestra section of the War Memorial Opera House and are presented free of charge to patrons with tickets for the corresponding performance.

Zanda Švēde (Tisbe), Carlos Chausson (Don Magnifico), and Maria Valdes (Clorinda) in San Francisco Opera’s LA CENERENTOLA. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Efraín Solís (Dandini) in San Francisco Opera’s LA CENERENTOLA. Photo by Cory Weaver.photos ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

La Cenerentola
San Francisco Opera
War Memorial Opera House
sung in Italian with English supertitles
scheduled to end on November 26, 2014
for tickets, call (415) 864-3330
or visit www.SFOpera.com

Leave a Comment