Cinderella is one of those stories that has been re-told for a very long time and many cultures across the world have their own version of the poor downtrodden girl who finds her prince and becomes a princess. The story has endless variations, and Cinderella by Rossini is just one of the many twists to the tale out there. This is a version of the tale that I am not too familiar with, so tonight's performance was interesting from the view of seeing another variation on the tale performed.
This is Cinderella, but not Cinderella as many people know the story. Rossini decided to strip this tale of its magical elements when he rather quickly wrote this opera. Gone is the magic, wicked step-mother, fairy god-mother, fabulous coach to the ball and many other elements to the story that many of us have grown up with. Instead we have wicked step-sisters (they are still there), a wicked step-father, bracelets instead of slippers, and of course a prince still. I like the magical elements in this story, but this is Rossini's opera and Scottish Opera are staying true to that vision tonight.
Tonight's principal Scottish Opera performers are Victoria Yarovaya (Cinderella), Maire Flavin (Tisbe), Rebecca Bottone (Clorinda), Richard Burkhard (Dandini), Graeme Danby (Don Magnifico), Nico Darmanin (Don Ramiro) and John Molloy (Alidoro).
Russian mezzo-soprano Victoria Yarovaya (Cinderella) is on great vocal form tonight handling some technically difficult to sing Rossini parts and seems to be establishing her reputation firmly in Rossini operas. Richard Burkhard also puts in some powerful performances as Dandini. This opera is of course part comedy too, and the wicked step-sisters played tonight by Maire Flavin and Rebecca Bottone not only handle some great vocals with apparent ease, but also have that light comedic timing that is needed to make these parts work on stage. Graeme Danby is wonderfully over the top at times in his portrayal of the pompus, scheming and often drunk father. John Molloy as Alidoro is in fine voice tonight and keeps the story going along and fills in the gaps that connect all the little bits of plot together. There would of course be no story without the Prince and that to me is always a difficult part to play in any Cinderella story as it is Dandini who seems to get all the best lines (many of the "mistaken identity" characters often seem to do this) and has the most developed of characters on stage. At times, the Prince in Cinderella is little more than a stereotyped prop. Nico Darmanin (from Malta) does however bring the Prince to life tonight more than you often see in the Cinderella story with some powerful vocals that are firmly establishing him in roles such as this one.
The sets are stripped back a bit for this production and a big "at the ball" set would have been nice, but this is Rossini's Cinderella and not the glitzy fairy tale one that we are more used to seeing - particularly getting near to Christmas (and that took a little time to adapt to for me).
This is after all a Rossini opera and it is that wonderful music that is the base-line for everything on stage tonight. With a small principal cast on stage tonight Scottish Opera have pretty much stayed true to the original source material with a few little updates of their own.
Review by Tom King