Rossini: La Cenerentola / Murray, Araiza, Quilico

Album cover art for upc 807280021592
Label: ARTHAUS
Catalog: 100215
Format: DVD

This 1982 Salzburg Festival Cenerentola lacks Ponnelle-type hi-jinks. That witty, much traveled production is available on DVD in a Scala performance starring Frederica Von Stade and Mr. Araiza. Von Stade and Bartoli on her Houston video inject humor into their interpretations, which I find unconventional. Rosina and Isabella are full of confidence. They know what they want and how to get it, which creates a good deal of humor. By contrast, poor unhappy, mistreated Angelina (Cenerentola) has to be helped by others to achieve happiness that might otherwise be denied her. The funny stuff in Cenerentola comes from the other characters. I continue to dislike Don Magnifico, but Walter Berry, not playing an idiotic buffoon, makes him very real and almost likable sometimes. The voice had become very dry, but he scores points for giving this comic Pizarro some dignity. And in a sense this is a perfect illustration of director Michael Hampe’s non-Eurotrash production—nothing novel, except perhaps for a blackened stage during the storm music with a horse-drawn carriage that breaks down. Hampe’s cast forms a tight ensemble. They are truly listening and responding to one another and to the various situations. This is a Cenerentola that will produce many smiles, but I doubt viewers will laugh out loud. Mario Pagano’s sets and costumes are very attractive though not spectacular. The plot has not been updated or altered. If the year had been 2009, could they have gotten away with such daring? I’ve often thought of Ann Murray as a fine singer with an attractive voice and dull personality. This performance is another story. She is very touching and a skillful actress. All of this is captured in vocalism (the voice is not big) that is richly expressive, secure, and imaginative. Sometimes the voice is just out-and-out beautiful. Her body language is exquisite and communicative. I thought more than once of Berganza, another “serious” heroine. She has a fine partner in the handsome Araiza. His vocalism, while still excellent, includes occasional examples (not serious) of pushing. This is, on the whole, sweet, lyrical singing. His voice sounded larger on the Von Stade video. Gino Quilico is a very handsome Dandini who plays a very smart buffoon. I can easily imagine Cenerentola falling for him under different circumstances. He radiates charm and tosses off machine-gun coloratura with the utmost confidence. And his lyric baritone is always a pleasure to hear. Those nasty sisters are suitably idiotic as portrayed by Daphne Evangelatos and Angela Denning. Wolfgang Schone cuts a nice authoritative figure (nothing magical about him in Hampe’s production), but his voice sounds a little uncomfortable in the role. Chailly and the VPO are marvelous. There’s lots of brio and gorgeous orchestral sound—and Chailly knows how to make those crescendos stand out. He doesn’t rush or unduly slow his singers. The chorus is tops. If you want a laugh-out-loud, more spectacular Cenerentola, go for the Von Stade and Bartoli videos. But do give this sweet, moving performance a try. © 2009 American Record Guide

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