Rossini's 'La Cenerentola' in Rome,
reviewed by GIUSEPPE PENNISI
reviewed by GIUSEPPE PENNISI
After fifteen years of absence, Teatro dell'Opera di Roma presented a new production of Rossini's dramma giocoso La Cenerentola. It is part of a broader project to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the Rossini operas especially commissioned by Roman theatres — ie La Cenerentola by the Teatro Valle and Il Barbiere di Siviglia by the Teatro Argentina. The project includes as many as three different productions of Il Barbiere — the first in the main house starting 11 February 2016, the second, in the Spring, in a travelling van in squares of both the city center and the suburbs, and the third in July and August at the Baths of Caracalla in the open air. In a co-production arrangement, the opera van will also reach squares in Palermo.
On 22 January 2016, the opening night of La Cenerentola was shown live in HD in sixty-four Italian movie theatres and then in a dozen other countries, including Australia and the USA. This is an indication of both the priority given to the production by the Teatro dell'Opera and renewed interest by Italian and foreign audiences in the main Roman lyric institution.
An added attraction was that the stage direction was entrusted to Emma Dante (and her team of costume and stage set designers as well as mimes). Emma Dante is a well known, although controversial, stage and movie director, with opera experience in Italy and France (See A Triumph, 5 February 2015 and A False Start, 7 December 2009). In Emma Dante's hands, the dramma giocoso becomes a surrealistic pop performance with a fusion of various kinds of musical theatre, from farce to sentimental comedy, and from social criticism to feminist Latin American zarzuelas, from mechanical life-size puppet theatre to plain comedy. I saw the Sunday afternoon 24 January 2016 performance. In my view, the fusion and the surrealistic pop will need some time to fully amalgamate all the different elements. Even though the staging has quite a few political overtones, the basic message of victory of virtue over evil is strongly delivered.
Although Emma Dante's staging was a key point as a box office hit, the musical aspects were the real remarkable points of the production. The conductor, Alejo Pérez, was quite good not only in keeping a proper balance between the pit and action packed stage but especially in shading the various tints of a dramma giocoso, from sentimental to comic to almost dramatic. The two protagonists were excellent: the Argentinian (of Italian origins) Juan Francisco Gatell and the young Neapolitan mezzo Serena Malfi. In the lyric coloratura repertory of the turn of the nineteenth century, Gatell is Juan Diego Flórez's only real competitor. In this production he gave a demonstration both of coloratura and of his ability to rise to a very high register and to descend slowly to a lower one. He should avoid being tempted by heavier roles and focus on Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. Serena Malfi, albeit young, sings in most of the important European houses, but quite seldom in Italy. It is a merit of the Teatro dell'Opera to have us listen to her strong volume, wide register and sexy, burnished voice.
Most of the others, such as Alessandro Corbelli and Vito Priante, come from the Rossini Opera Festival singing factory.