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A Depression-era Cinderella

Alice Busch Theater
07/19/2009 -  & 24, 27, 31 July, 4, 8*, 10, 13, 15, 17, 21, 23 August
Gioacchino Rossini: La Cenerentola
Julie Boulianne (Angelina), John Tessier (Don Ramiro), Eduardo Chama (Don Magnifico), Keith Phares (Dandini), Jamilyn Manning-White (Clorinda), Karin Mushegain (Tisbe), Joshua Jeremiah (Alidoro)
Glimmerglass Opera Chorus, Bonnie Koestner (Chorus Master), Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra, Joseph Colaneri (Conductor)
Kevin Newbury (Director), Cameron Anderson (Scenery Design), Jessica Jahn (Costume Design), D.M. Wood (Lighting Design)

J. Boulianne & J. Tessier (© Richard Termine/Glimmerglass Opera)

Gioacchino Rossini and librettist Jacopo Ferretti's variant on the Cinderella tale is set this year at Glimmerglass in the early 1930s when the US had to endure both the Great Depression and Prohibition. It has the look and feel of a Preston Sturges film, or perhaps a dizzy Cole Porter musical. Such works, like La Cenerentola, typically dealt with romance between people of widely differing social strata, so this updating works just fine.

Julie Boulianne as Angelina, (La Cenerentola herself) has a Ruby Keeler-style winsomeness as both the drab little kitchen slavey in Don Magnifico’s decaying mansion and then as the understatedly glamorous mystery girl at Don Ramiro’s gathering, which takes place in his well-stocked library. She seems easily to express both the heartfelt yearning of her ballad Una volta c’era un re and the vocal fireworks of the final ensemble.

Jamilyn Manning-White (Clorinda) and Karin Mushegan (Tisbe), both members of Glimmerglass’s Young American Artists Program, perform the step-sisters as a pair of cheap floozies, eager to imbibe and dispense the household’s bathtub gin. Yet another of the Young Artists, Joshua Jeremiah, gives a very strong performance as Alidoro, Don Ramiro’s tutor who first discovers Angelina and then effects her transformation.

John Tessier, in his third bel canto role with the festival, has always had a notably attractive tone and in each new part displays an even more assured and expressive handling of the musical line. And here is a singer who is going places: his program bio states he is to perform the role of Tonio in La Fille du Regiment at the Vienna State Opera.

Eduardo Chama is lovable as the irrepressible Don Magnifico. Keith Phares gives a well-defined performance as Dandini, the valet who gets to act the grand seigneur.

Rossini composed a cornucopia of music for the piece and it has both its staging and musical challenges, amongst an embarrassment of musical riches. There are times when the direction of the male chorus and principals lacks clarity and crispness, giving the stage a rather cluttered look.

Overall, however, this production is a happy example (like this season’s Dido and Aeneas) of a successfully updated production.

Michael Johnson



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