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“Cinderella” from Rossini’s Chicago Lyric Opera


“Cinderella” has the title of being a barnstormer — enough to put a dent in the age of the average operagoer — but Rossini’s emotionally powerful “La Cenerentola” has no fairy godmothers, glass slippers, pumpkins or midnight rushes home. Cinderella doesn’t talk to animals like in the Rodgers and Hammerstein version, but she sings some of Rossini’s most beautiful music; these include “Non piu mesta,” an intoxicatingly gorgeous aria that explores the oft-forgotten relationship between happiness and forgiveness.

It’s no wonder that the opera, written when its composer was just 25 years old, has been a Lyric favorite since 1959. Originally directed and designed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, this current staging uses a sepia-toned set that resembles an enlarged version of the opera. Pollock’s Victorian toy theater is drawn with clever perspective and similar handcrafted visual tricks. The production has its roots in a commission for the San Francisco Opera in 1969. Ponnelle, an esthetician and craftsman of the highest order and a rare director who designed his own sets, died in 1988 at the age of just 56. Watching his work now, more than 50 years later, the rich color of people still emerges with striking panache.

Cinderella, or Cenerentola, is, of course, a role for the mezzo-soprano, and when the beautiful Russian-born singer Vasilisa Berzhanskaya opened her mouth for the first time in Sunday’s opening performance, you could see some of the young audience members leaning forward in wonder and awe. with the unexpected dignity with which they expect to become princesses. In addition to delighting the Lyric audience with her singing, Berzhanskaya is a lively actor who can fully embody the moral superiority that drives her stepsisters crazy, while also being vulnerable and warm as the role demands.

Sophia Maekawa and Teresa Castle "Cinderella" by Chicago Lyric Opera.

Rossini’s opera, with a libretto by Jacopo Ferretti, focuses much more on the family than other versions of a European folk tale that was already more than 100 years old when it premiered in Rome in 1817. Despite her romance with the tenor prince. , Ramiro (Jack Swanson), Angelina (named Cenerentola), doesn’t so much waltz into Disney’s flashy transformation, worrying about the impact her departure will have on the people who treat her with disdain. Of course, Ramiro has already proven his justified good intentions that he wants to marry for love and not for money. He will sing “Sì, ritrovarla io giuro,” which Swanson delivers with aspirational power throughout, emphasizing the central struggle of the role to be both a silent spectator and a man capable of passionate love at the highest level. It solidifies in the audience’s mind that Cenerentola will get along just fine with this man.

Opposing the servant, the prince, and the supportive teacher are the arrogant and selfish Don Magnifico (Alessandro Corbelli), the Pantalone of the proceedings, and the braggadocious maid baritone Dandini (the funny and sweet Joshua Hopkins), who seems like a viable option throughout. For the spurned stepsisters, entertainingly played and titillatingly sung by Teresa Castillo and Sophia Maekawa. In Rossini’s version, an all-male troupe of courtiers, all entering Cenerentola’s kitchen with mutton chops, provides the choral component.

“Cinderella” was certainly a pleasant experience on a cold January afternoon. I was struck by the visible connection between conductor Yi-Chen Lin and Berzhanskaya’s leading lady: the two eyes constantly locked as Lin threw her body into her work. Not only did they bring out the best in each other, they also seemed to expand on the opera’s insistence that Cenerentola is not so blinded by her own magical love affair that she forgets the real world in which she has long lived and survived.

Just like the rest of us.

Theater Cycle


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Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.


Review: “Cinderella” (3.5 stars)

When: Until February 10

Where: Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive

Working time: 3 hours 10 minutes

Tickets: $49-$319 at 312-827-5600 and lyricopera.org

Company "Cinderella" by Chicago Lyric Opera.


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