Cinderella – English Touring Opera

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This performance provided a flurry of sensations and I almost equate it to Shakespeare on acid – but in a good way.

Rossini’s Cindereila was first performed in Rome in 1817, in Italian, with the words written by Jacopo Ferretti, and based on another couple of works a few years earlier, but all were versions of the fairy tale Cinderella. 

This Cinderella fairy tale is not the Disney version we are more familiar with, this version is more Shakespearean as it has satirical comedy and levels of deception. The English Touring Opera (ETO) has added a modern twist which hints towards the storyline of ‘Night at the Museum’ where the artifacts come alive, and they sing in English. Let me elaborate…

The set-up and the stage is as though a section of a museum is closed off for some essential maintenance work. The porter (Alidoro) is staying late after closing, and gets involved with the artifacts which magically transform into the Ugly Sisters and the museum is the setting for wherever they are.

This version of Cinderella yes sees Cinders as a housemaid, cleaner, dogsbody for the family of Don Magnifico and his two daughters Clorinda and Tisbe. The palace courtiers arrive announcing that Prince Ramiro is coming for a dinner in order to find a wife, as ordered by his dying father. Prince Ramiro and his servant Dandini, conjure up a plan to swap identities in order for Dandini to vet the daughters and for Ramiro to meet them without being a Prince.

Ramiro bumps into Cinderella, they both become besotted with each other but she has to rush off and do chores. The family get invited to the palace for a ball. Cinderella begs to go along but Don Magnifico refuses, until Alidoro points out that officially he does have three daughters and they all must go to the ball. You can generally guess the rest…

There is some randomness to the storyline such as characters appearing out of nowhere, the donkey dream but also the comedy of Dandini pretending to be Ramiro, and the sisters shallowness to status over love, hence the initial link to Shakespeare. Plus the style of the language. Having the opera in English is good and encourages more visitors who may be put off by not being able to understand the language. However, the style of opera doesn’t always able you to understand the words therefore Norwich Theatre Royal had the words on screens by the stage, which was a huge help. There were moments of potential unintended comedy as maybe some of the translation was either too literal, or not as smooth as it could have been, however I think it added to the overall light-hearted charm of the performance, and again hinting at the lightness of some of Shakespeare comedies.

Having the story interwoven with ‘Night at the Museum’ was different and interesting, and allowed for some of the randomness to again be part of the whole story without being overly odd, as it all generally had a charming oddness to it. However it all came together as an interesting whole.

Then let’s talk about the cast and their performances. Utterly stunning. Their voices were phenomenal and it’s incredible the level of talent and how this is humanly possible. There were moments where the music was fast paced and the level of articulation while singing opera at speed was mind blowing. They were all fantastic, yet Esme Bronwen-Smith as Cinderella was truly spellbinding. All against the back drop of a brilliant live orchestra. 

As my first ‘proper’ opera, I am delighted I had the opportunity to see this wonderfully charming, incredible performance. 

Cinderella – Esme Bronwen-Smith
Ramiro – Joseph Doody
Alidoro – Edward Hawkins
Clorinda – Nazan Fikret
Tisbe – Lauren Young
Dandini – Edmund Danon
Don Magnifico – Arshak Kuzikyan

Photo Credit: Richard Hubert Smith



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