RODERIC DUNNETT visits
the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden,
for 'La Cenerentola'
La Bonte in Trionfo -- 'Virtue Triumphant' -- is the kind of allegorical
subtitle Handel might have rejoiced at; and indeed, there is in La Cenerentola
something of an Enlightenment throwback in the whole conceit of Alidoro,
the wise, all-knowing tutor, intervening to ensure that his ward, the Prince
Ramiro, makes the right marriage choice, spurning class and opting for virtue.
No surprise, then, that one of the earlier sources of Giacomo Ferretti's
libretto for Rossini's opera turns out to be Charles Perrault's conte
(or reworked folk tale) Cendrillon, dating from 1697. Here, to
all intents and purposes, we meet the medieval world of Boccaccio and Rabelais
reinterpreted through Enlightenment eyes -- sanctified, as it were, as if
in a painting by Poussin.
The Royal Opera House has been having a good run recently. Not so much
thanks to the wordy vocal lines in Nicholas Maw's setting of the Auschwitz-recalling
Sophie's Choice, based on William Styron's 1979 novel (already filmed
with the Oscar-winning Meryl Streep, and here starring Angelika Kirschlager
in the guilt-torn title role), which intercuts between New York and stories
of the Nazi extermination camp near Cracow in Southern Poland,
Angelika Kirschlager as Sophie, in New York, left, and at Auschwitz, right. Photos: Catherine Ashmore/Performing Arts Library
as to their buoyant Ariadne auf Naxos [see
Roderic Dunnett's M&V review] and the raw brutality of Keith Warner's
acclaimed production of Berg's Wozzeck.
Matthias Goerne as Wozzeck in the dissecting room. Photo: Bill Cooper/Performing Arts Library
This Wozzeck was notable for the outstanding German baritone Matthias
Goerne (already an acclaimed Lieder singer) as an aptly moonfaced
protagonist, who headed an outstanding cast, including Eric Halfvarson's
grim, obscenely prodding, dissecting Doctor, Graham Clark's bullying Captain,
the suitably vile sexual pest of a Drum-Major (Kim Begley) and Katarina
Dalayman's unnervingly touching, put-upon Marie (the deranged convict-like
soldier's doomed prostitute wife). Abetted by Stefanos Lazaridis' tellingly
spare designs, this was the second Royal Opera House production (Ariadne
was the first) to be conducted by Antonio Pappano in his capacity as
The House's new Music Director.
Matthias Goerne as Wozzeck amid his taunters. Photo : Bill Cooper/Performing Arts Library
Now to Covent Garden comes lighter fare. Rossini's La Cenerentola
(Rome, 1817) is the first of the Royal Opera's 2003 revivals : co-directed
by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, this Cinderella seems as wonderful
a work as ever, full of witty conceits and comic touches that, as Stendhal
suggested (his interesting review notes were included in the programme)
any composer worth his salt would have given his right arm for.
Copyright © 7 February 2003
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK