No glass slippers, but 'La Cenerentola' is pure Cinderella
by John Soltys
Seattle Opera opened its production of La Cenerentola Saturday night with a spirited performance of the classic "Cinderella" fairy tale. The opera continues through Feb. 1 with a total of seven dates.
Written by Gioachino Rossini, the performance is sung in Italian with English supratitles. It is the familiar story of Cinderella, but with a delicious twist, due to Rossini's wicked sense of humor.
In La Cenerentola, the prince of the land (played by Gregory Kunde) is returning home after the death of his father to take a wife. In his search for a bride, he invites all eligible ladies in the land to his palace for a night of dancing and courting before he chooses one among them. He decides, however, that he should disguise himself as his own valet in order to better observe the women before making a choice.
It is while in disguise that the Prince meets Cenerentola (Laura Polverelli) in the house of her greedy stepfather, the Baron, and her boorish stepsisters.
An unappreciated stepdaughter relegated to the position of a servant, Cenerentola dreams of a loving marriage with the king, but spends most of her time sweeping up ashes in her stepfather's lavish house.
The prince and Cenerentola fall in love, but before more can happen, the prince's real valet, Dandini, enters dressed as the prince to invite the women of the house to the palace for a party later that night.
Dandini, played by Robert Orth ('92-'93 Seattle Opera Artist of the Year), steals the scene from the developing love of the prince and Cenerentola through a brilliant performance as the foppish prince wooing the Baron's two daughters.
They are played to perfection by Sally Wolf, another Artist of the Year, and Louise Marley (a Redmond resident and author of a first novel, Sing the Light, that combines her experience in the opera world with a flair for fantasy writing).
The plot proceeds in close parallel to the storyline of the traditional "Cinderella" fairy tale, with few deviations but more than a little humor, as Rossini guides the players through the convoluted web of deception and half-truths to a frantic climax of understanding as they all sing, "In the end, we'll all be in the madhouse."
In spite of the confusion, or perhaps because of it, La Cenerentola captivates the hearts of the audience. Their excitement is deflated as Cenerentola is told she cannot go to the ball, and they find themselves laughing as the Baron becomes wine steward to the king after surviving a wine tasting of 30 barrels.
Even without a glass slipper to complete the story (instead, Rossini has Cenerentola leave a bracelet with the Prince), La Cenerentola is the classic Cinderella fairy tale we've grown up with. It is a delightful reason to visit the opera.