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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