Legit Review: ‘Cinderella’

Legit Review: 'Cinderella'

Parents, beware. Taking your little girls to Rossini’s “Cinderella” (aka “La Cenerentola”) could turn them off to opera forever. I recall a bad production of “As You Like It” early in life that nearly killed the Bard for me. “Cinderella” is opera buffa, not opera burlesque. What’s on display at LA Opera lacks romance and magic, much less genuine wit and charm.

The opening-night aud at the Chandler sported several girls in princess attire who might have been surprised to learn that this Cinderella/Angelina (the attractive but underpowered Kate Lindsey) doesn’t receive a glass slipper but rather a sparkling bracelet from her prince (the squealy Rene Barbera). It seems that 19th Italian censors wouldn’t allow a bare female foot to be shown on stage, so Rossini subbed a bracelet. Do censors ever comes off as anything but idiots in retrospect?

To squelch any romance, designer Joan Guillen puts the prince in shoes that resemble porcelain tea cups. That’s one of his more understated touches.

The borrowed production, which has traveled the world, looks both garish and underpopulated on the Chandler stage. Which might have something to do with director Joan Font’s decision to have six acrobats dressed as rats to fill up the place. For the first 100 minutes or so (“Gotterdammerung’s” first act feels slightly shorter), the rats don’t do much. Then, during the act-one banquet finale, they come alive to strike several lively poses. As a result, they were the talk of the intermission.

It’s a bad sign for an opera when your mute performers dominate the conversation, not to mention the curtain call.

Also not good is when a supporting player, Ronnita Nicole Miller as one of the stepsisters, is the only singer onstage whose voice displays real size, presence and beauty. Miller pops up in almost all the LA Opera productions these days. It’s time to give her a starring role.

How could there be a spoiler alert in a production of any “Cinderella,” but here goes: According to Font, despite the music and libretto, Cinderella/Angelina dreamed it all up. As the curtain falls, the prince is gone and she has returned to her abusive household, sweeping away with a smile on her face and six humongous rats as her only friends.

James Conlon conducts the lethargic performance.

Cinderella

(Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles; 3,000 seats; $270 top)

An LA Opera presentation of an opera in two acts by Gioachino Rossini and Jacopo Ferretti. Conducted by James Conlon. Directed by Joan Font. Sets and costumes, Joan Guillen; lighting, Albert Faura; choreography, Xevi Dorca. Opened and reviewed March 23, 2013. Running time: 3 HOURS, 10 MIN.

With: Kate Lindsey, Rene Barbera, Vito Priante, Alessandro Corbelli, Nicola Ulivieri, Stacey Tappan, Ronnita Nicole Miller.

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  1. Andy V. says:

    I went to La Cenerentola and thought it was the best 3 hours I’ve ever spent at the LA Opera!!! It was a dazzling and wonderful show. I found this performance engaging, funny and very well rehearsed. The mice were absolutely wonderful, the music was incredible and I disagree strongly with Mr. Hoffler’s review.

  2. Michelle says:

    Dear Mr. Hofler
    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, so I will not try to argue you out of yours. However, I have a few problems with your review. Just because you were surprised that this Cinderella isn’t the one of Walt Disney’s imagining does not mean that it is invalid. I might suggest that it is you, more than the young girls in the audience, disappointed at the lack of the glass slipper. I would suggest to parents that it is advisable to expose their children to many different versions of such a popular fairytale. On the line of children and appropriateness, I am not sure why you call this show “burlesque” when shortly after, you criticize it heavily for the censorship that created the bracelets in the first place. Please expound on this remark.
    Also, please note that Joan Guillén is not a woman. HE is a Spanish set and costume designer who is well known around the world, making his LA opera debut with this production. I would suggest you do a little homework, or at least read the playbill before you begin writing. It’s embarrassing and makes you seem like you did a poor job of preparation for a review that will likely color the opinions of many before making up their own minds.
    Whether or not romance is squelched, I’m not sure true love only comes in the latest shoe trends. The costumes were less about enhancing sexual appeal and more about further character description (notice that the prince’s shoes, while obtrusive in his disguise as Dandini, match his true wardrobe perfectly). Perhaps you would have been happier if it actually had been a burlesque?
    Lastly, I might give you a reason why the rats were “the talk of the intermission”. La Cenerentola is a well-known and loved work, and many who frequent the opera house have seen it more than once. I’ll give you an analogy to what you witnessed. Suppose you are given an excellent slice of chocolate cake. Suppose you get four pieces of chocolate cake, just as tasty, but exactly the same. The fifth piece, you notice at once it is filled with raspberry glaze. Wouldn’t your first comment be about the glaze, which is new, and not the chocolate, which is delicious but expected? Those who may not be opera-goers may happen to be animal lovers or like cute things. The directive team used an idea (that worked very well for Disney) in order to enhance the story and give more visual in what might have been some lulls in action, due to the repetitive nature of Rossini’s work.
    In short, I suggest that as a reviewer, you might try to do a little research or at least try to be slightly objective in your work. Someone might actually use this poorly thrown together piece of writing for advice.

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