La Cenerentola review – Cinderella has a ball with exuberant panto kitsch

Edinburgh festival theatre
Stefan Herheim’s Lyon Opera production is hyperactively camp – even the conductor has a cameo – but the singing is warm and rich

There’s more than a hint of melodrama about Rossini’s Cinderella. Amid the comic touches and the larger than life characters at heart the work is essentially a moral fable: that simply by being kind and good, the poor, downtrodden servant girl really does get to marry the prince and live happily ever after. Not for nothing is the opera subtitled “virtue triumphant”. On its own terms it works beautifully, Cinderella’s pathos thrown into relief by the moments of typical Rossinian comedy.

Not that you would guess this from Lyon Opera’s production which the company brought to Edinburgh. Director Stefan Herheim and his team appear to have been labouring under the misconception that they were creating a production for the pantomime. At least that’s how it appears judging by the gaudy, exuberant kitsch of the production.

A chorus of Rossinis … with Taylor Stayton’s Prince Ramiro.
A chorus of Rossinis … with Taylor Stayton’s Prince Ramiro. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian

Not content with an elaborately shifting (and sometimes rather clunky) set, the production features video projections of Disney-esque castles, the chorus dressed to a man as rotund Rossinis, a cameo appearance on stage from the conductor and a “you-shall-go-to-the-ball” transformation scene reimagined as a particularly camp depiction of the annunciation.

Amid all this hyperactivity the integrity of Rossini’s work is entirely obscured from sight. Which is a pity because musically there’s rather a lot to like about this performance. After a rather slow start Michèle Losier brings a warmth and richness to Cinderella’s music and delivers her final triumphant scene with gusto. Taylor Stayton is a pleasingly agile Don Ramiro while Renato Girolami and Nikolay Borchev have a lot of fun with the buffoonery and comedy of Don Magnifico and Dandini. When not joining in the hijinks conductor Stefano Montanari brings plenty of energy to the score. It’s just unfortunate that there is so much on stage to distract from the integrity and sensitivity of the performance.

Buffoonery … Katherine Aitken as Tisbe, Renato Girolami as Don Magnifico and Clara Meloni as Clorinda.
Buffoonery … Katherine Aitken as Tisbe, Renato Girolami as Don Magnifico and Clara Meloni as Clorinda. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian


Rowena Smith

The GuardianTramp

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