Maria Kataeva and Javier Camarena star in La cenerentola at the Liceu

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by Opera Charm Team
May 10, 2024

Premiered in Rome in 1817, La cenerentola —an adaptation of Charles Perrault's tale Cinderella— is Rossini's last great comic opera, returning to the Liceu from May 16 to June 1.

BIOGRAPHY

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INTERVIEW

Emma Dante presents a very broad interpretation of the opera, which is a comedy in the best Rossinian tradition, but also addresses situations typical of semi-serious opera, that is, those in which dramatic situations occur that add gravity to the story, not just humor, nonsense, and fun. After all, Angelina’s presentation in the first act is more depressing than comic: while her stepsisters exhibit ridiculous vanity, she receives humiliating treatment from her family.

And it is this circumstance that Dante uses to develop the scenic setting, which she constructs with the idea of complementing the comedy with moments of denunciation that touch on aspects such as harassment and gender violence. For example, at the end of the opera, before the curtain falls, and as we celebrate Angelina’s fortune —she will marry Prince Don Ramiro—, the stepsisters, Tisbe and Clorinda, choose to commit suicide on stage, receiving a very harsh punishment for their selfish and cruel behavior throughout the opera.

If morality indicates that evil has a punishment, the sisters receive the maximum penalty. On the other hand, La cenerentola is a fairy tale. In Rossini’s opera, there is no magic, but all the enchantment and surprise of Perrault’s story is maintained, as what is improbable comes true —the triumph of the marginalized girl— through imagination and kindness. And Dante does not skimp on fantasy, turning the production into an experience close to pop surrealism.

The two acts of the opera unfold in a single space: a hall with mirrors that occupies the entire stage —with side and rear entrances, allowing for constant circulation of characters—, which serves as the setting for Don Magnifico’s house and the prince’s palace. The costumes are period —a regression to Rossini’s times—, but the dramaturgy is modern, a contrast between what is classic and what is daring, resulting, as Dante says, in surrealism and pop. And the constant participation of a ballet is of great importance in this.

In this production, each action of the characters on stage is accompanied by complementary movements of a group of extras and dancers, who not only help intensify the comic effect —with all the speed and chaos characteristic of Rossini’s buffa operas—, but also offer a reading of the internal psychology of each role, as what they think and feel is as important as what they do and say, through a frenzied music.

Thus, the emotional journey of Angelina can be followed, from the depression caused by being a victim of bullying, to the final relief thanks to the love of the prince, which she achieves not by caprice of the man, but by her tenacity and intelligence: needless to say, this kind and insightful Angelina also embodies an emancipatory feminist nuance.

La cenerentola, premiered in Rome in January 1817, is a milestone in Rossini’s career, as it stands at a midpoint between his dazzling debut in 1810 and his premature retirement in 1829. But it is also important for another reason: it was his last great comic opera, composed after Il Barbiere di Siviglia —thus, a sign of the grace period Rossini was going through— before definitively deciding to work on a more dramatic type of opera.

Rossini was the star of European music, and his premieres were counted as triumphs, and he came to La cenerentola by accident: Ferretti had adapted a libretto from two previous texts —which had been turned into successful operas composed by Nicolas Isouard and Stefano Pavesi—, and presented an impeccable comedy that only lacked music. In the materials he drew inspiration from, references to the supernatural in Perrault’s tale had already been smoothed out, because they were products of the enlightened Europe, which placed faith in reason and common sense, and rejected superstition.

Moreover, Ferretti even anticipated the Vatican’s censorship by eliminating not only the superstitions, but also the glass slippers, since he knew that showing a female foot in Rome —or even an ankle— would have been inadmissible in papal opera. This was the material Rossini received: accustomed to working at a fixed price, he finished the score in a few weeks, and La cenerentola was ready to be premiered.

The first night was not a resounding success, but it did conquer all of Europe a few months later. Rossini’s operas, and especially his masterful buffa works of the 1810s —L’italiana in Algeri, Il turco in Italia, Il Barbiere di Siviglia and, of course, La cenerentola— have a common characteristic: they require very agile performers, capable of singing with precision and clarity at demoniac speeds. 

Not only that: they must also have, at the same time, a highly developed comic sense and convey with gestures and good acting skills the richness of humorous nuances expressed by the characters.

This implies that, in this opera in particular, and in this production in particular, the performers must be able to balance comedy with dramatic moments, and live up to Rossini’s devilish score, which contains difficult arias, very long ensemble numbers, and all the pyrotechnics that made him rich and famous.

In these performances, the main attraction lies in the character of Don Ramiro, played by two of the most important light and lyric tenors of the moment, the Mexican Javier Camarena —the great reference of Rossinian comedy and bel canto in recent years— and an emerging star, the South African Sunnyboy Dladla, who achieved great success at the last Rossini festival in the city of Pesaro.

The serious roles are for the baritones Florian Sempey and Carles Pachon, in the role of the servant Dandini, and for the bass-baritones Erwin Schrott —who returns to the Liceu after his participation in Macbeth— and Marko Mimica in the role of Alidoro. Don Magnifico, a bass role —and, in a way, the most prominent in the opera for the number of his arias—, is defended by two experts in comic bel canto, Paolo Bordogna and Pablo Ruiz.

In the female roles, the stepsisters Clorinda and Tisbe fall, respectively, to the Catalan soprano Isabella Gaudí and the Belarusian mezzo Marina Pinchuk. And, finally, the true main character of the work, Angelina/Cenerentola, written for a mezzo-soprano with great coloratura ability, is played by the Russian Maria Kataeva and the Barcelonian Carol García.

The musical direction is entrusted to Giacomo Sagripanti, a young and energetic conductor characterized by a deep knowledge of Rossini and bel canto in general, and for printing very vigorous tempos on the works that force the singers to give their best.

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Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.

BIANCA L. NICA

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