The Met closed its Live in HD season with Rossini's take on the famous Cinderella fairy tale, "La Cenerentola". Unlike many bel canto comedies, the moral center of "La Cenerentola" remained well intact amid the waves of delightful comedy.
Joyce DiDonato brought down the house with her lithe ornamentation, powerful dynamic inflections, and her innocent portrayal of the title character, Angelina (also called Cenerentola). The heartbreaking hopefulness DiDonato brought to Cenerentola's "Una Volta C'era Un Re" became more pronounced with each repetition of the song. Her legato lines and delicate pianos conveyed Cenerentola's humility, while the shimmering vocal fireworks gave the character a spark of youthfulness . She saved the best for last, delivering "Non Piu Mesta" with flawless precision and glowing energy.
Juan Diego Florez matched DiDonato's vocal agility in the role of the prince. Though his high notes did not come quite as effortlessly as they once did, his sweet, bright tone was nonetheless captivating. Florez dispatched the cascading coloratura of "Dolce Speranza"with style and ease, winning him a well-deserved ovation. Onstage, Florez conveyed a dynamic character that could be affectionate, commanding, and indignant.
Cenerentola's boorish family provided abounding slapstick humor throughout the performance and kept the motion onstage as animated as within the score. Clorinda and Tisbe, sung by Rachelle Durkin and Patricia Risley respectively, are Cenerentola's haughty step-sisters. Their childish bickering and exaggeratedly ill-mannered portrayals facilitated many colorful comedic moments without ever jeopardizing the quality or timing of the tricky ensemble scenes. Their clear tones blended perfectly and, though their portrayals were grotesquely overdone, their spontaneity and conviction in their interpretations made them difficult to sincerely dislike.
Similarly, Alessandro Corbelli sang Cenerentola's presumptuous step-father with a comic bite to his tone. But, while Clorinda and Tisbe maintained a whimsical, entertaining air even at their rudest, Corbelli's Don Magnifico revealed a strikingly cruel side in his abusive treatment of Cenerentola. This pitiful father-daughter relationship was critical in keeping the opera from devolving into pure comedy and highlighted Cenerentola's generous spirit at the end of the opera. Corbelli's vocal strengths were in the dramatic delivery of text and his impressive patter singing.
Pietro Spagnoli was a more subdued comic presence in the role of the prince's valet, Dandini. Dandini spends most of the opera masquerading as the prince, which made Spagnoli's rich, ample baritone and refined technique fittingly regal. Luca Pisaroni made a brief, albeit noteworthy appearance as the enigmatic Alidorno. His warm sound was comforting in his Act I aria, "Là del ciel nell'arcano profondo."
The production succeeded in preserving both the moral value and humor inherent in the opera. The elegant costumes became the fairy tale, but the set was often quite desolate and left something to be desired.
This run marks Fabio Luisi's debut conducting "La Cenerentola." He achieved optimum balance and momentum in the building ensemble scenes and maintained a crisp, buoyant sound throughout the opera.
This performance will be rebroadcasted in select movie theaters on Wednesday, May 14.