La Cenerentola

Leeds Grand Theatre

La Cenerentola - the Cinder-girl or Cinderella - has not been staged at Opera North since 1982. One of Gioachino Rossini’s most beguiling comic creations has now been brought bang up to date in Aletta Collins’ effervescent new production.Giles Cadle’s charming set design places the action in a ballet school. There is an inner proscenium arch beyond which lies a handsome reproduction of London’s delightfully kitsch 1950s Rivoli Ballroom. Henry Waddington is on splendid form as the preening Don Magnifico - aka Cinderella’s step-father - flamboyant proprieter of the ballet school. Mezzo soprano Wallis Giunta’s Angelina (Cinderella) is the floor sweeping skivvy subjected to continual slap-downs from her outrageous “ugly” step sisters. The sisters’ gem of a comedy double act is created by the very tall soprano Sky Ingram as Clorinda, with the somewhat shorter mezzo soprano Amy J Payne as Tisbe. Both sisters appropriately parade themselves in a succession of garish frocks and feather boas.

In place of a sugary fairy godmother, Rossini provides Alidoro, Prince Ramiro’s philosophising private tutor who goes in search of a suitable bride for his master. Darktoned bass John Savournin gives insightful portrayals of this mysterious character in his various disguises. Alongside Waddington and Savournin, Quirijn de Lang’s strutting Dandini completes a splendid trio of lower voices.

South African tenor Sunnyboy Dladla as Prince Ramiro delivers the standout performance of the evening. Dladla’s light and agile tenor sustains an elegant and florid vocal line that soars effortlessly to successive high Cs in his dazzling Act 2 aria Si, ritrovarla io giuro (I swear I’ll find her). Ramiro and Cenerentola’s initial duet in which they express love at first sight is gracefully ornamented.

Giunta gives her own bravura coloratura fireworks display in Cenerentola’s final rondo-aria with Chorus, Nacqui all’affanno... non piu mesta (I was born into pain and tears). Opera North’s eighteen dashing tenors and basses amusingly make their entrances and exits in orderly lines as fashionably accoutred courtiers. Conductor Wyn Davies at the helm of the Orchestra of Opera North maintains the momentum of the big ensemble scenes and thrillingly ratchets up the volume for Rossini’s famous trademark crescendos. There are just two more Leeds performances of this joyous production: today (Thursday) and Saturday at Leeds Grand Theatre.

l Geoffrey Mogridge