Rossini Shines in Princeton
Roger S. Berlind Theatre of McCarter Theatre Center
07/12/2008 - and 19, 25 and 27 July
Gioacchino Rossini: La Cenerentola
Leah Wool (Angelina), Javier Abreu (Ramiro), Eric T. Dubin (Dandini), Matthew Lau (Magnifico), Scott Conner (Alidoro), Rebecca Kier (Clorinda), Alissa Anderson (Tisbe)
Opera New Jersey Orchestra and Ensemble, Robert Wood (conductor), Keith Chambers (chorus master)
Tony Fanning (scenic designer), Patricia A. Hibbert (costume designer), Barry Steele (lighting designer), Elsen Associates, Inc. (makeup and wig design)
R. Kier (Clorinda), L. Wool (Angelina), A. Anderson (Tisbe) (© Jeff Reeder)
Sparkling Rossinian comedy is following Verdian melodrama in Opera New Jersey’s Princeton season. One day after La Traviata held the stage, La Cenerentola delivers an evening of joyous fun in Berlind Theatre. The fun begins as soon as conductor Robert Wood and the orchestra dig into Rossini's effervescent overture. Then when the lights go up, stage director Michael Scarola fills the stage with joyous comedic action.
Scarola catches the tender pathos as well as the comic fun in Rossini's buoyant score. He camps up the hilarious scenes with Clorinda and Tisbe but he also tenderly underlines the sentiment that blossoms between Angelina and Ramiro. Scarola choreographs the movement of the cast and chorus in time with the music. His staging blossoms seamlessly in the big ensembles. The only visual let down are Tony Fanning's cartoon-like sets, borrowed from the Virginia Opera. The designer creates a fanciful series of settings that sometimes look a bit garish and contrived.
Wood leads a winning musical performance. His baton deftly underpins the big arias and adds sparkle to Rossini's bubbling ensembles. There are no virtuoso singers in the cast. But the solo voices have personality and blend well in the concerted numbers. To the title role, Leah Wool brings a soft-grained mezzo-soprano and dark-haired physical charm. An affecting Cinderella, Wool convinces as both the scorned stepdaughter and the radiant woman who wins the prince's heart. Looking like a dream in her gorgeous gown, she sings the joyous final rondo fluently if without the coruscating brilliance the music ideally demands.
Javier Abreu makes a handsome Ramiro. He acts with the easy confidence of a prince, but his lightweight tenor loses its quality when he forces the tone on top. Eric T. Dubin capers through the role of Dandini. He exploits the comic opportunities and sings with gusto. As the prince’s tutor, Scott Conner brings a sympathetic presence to the performance.
Adding uproarious comedy are Matthew Lau (Magnifico), Rebecca Kier (Clorinda) and Alissa Anderson (Tisbe). Lau may lack the fat tone and girth associated with the role of Cinderella's bumbling stepfather, but he savors the fun and sings with aplomb. Kier and Anderson almost steal the show with their outrageous mugging and endless primping. They exploit Patricia A. Hibbert's outlandish costumes as the stepsisters battle Cinderella for the prince.