BWW Review: LA CENERENTOLA at Winter Opera St. Louis-- Magic Music, Not Magic Pumpkins!

BWW Review: LA CENERENTOLA at Winter Opera St. Louis--
Magic Music, Not Magic Pumpkins!

It's exactly 200 years since Rossini premiered his La Cenerentola in Milan. Winter Opera's fine production of this beloved Cinderella work makes a beautiful anniversary gift.

Rossini, at twenty-five, had already composed several highly successful operas. For La Cenerentola he was working under great pressure, and he composed the entire score in just three weeks. Well, he did have an assistant and he self-plagiarized a bit as he often did: the overture was from La Gazetta and part of an aria was from Il Berbiere di Siviglia. But in this short time Rossini produced what critics have called "some of the very finest writing for solo and ensemble."

The truth of this evaluation is vividly apparent in the gorgeous voices that Winter Opera has assembled here.

Now be prepared: There are thousands of versions of the Cinderella story and in this one you will find no magic-no fairy godmother, no pumpkin coach, no mice-into-horses, not even a glass slipper. In 1817 Rossini's special-effects resources were very limited. What we find instead of magic is a great profusion of utterly beautiful music. In this I think Rossini made a very well-advised investment decision.

The Winter Opera cast is led by the beautiful Kate Tombaugh in the title role. It's unusual for an operatic heroine to be written as a coloratura contralto and such creatures are rare. But Miss Tombaugh more than triumphs as our Cinderella. Her lovely voice is full of power and clarity. She projects to the rafters and her diction is crystalline. (I found myself actually understanding some of the Italian!) In the last scene, after blissing through a particularly demanding tour de force aria, "Perché tremar, perché?" she gives us an astonishing crescendo as she soars to that very highest note. Amazing!

Isaac Frishman shows a very strong coloratura tenor as the Prince. His is a truly sweet and graceful voice.

The entire cast is splendid. Basses Andrew Potter, as the wicked stepfather, and Nathaniel Resika, as Alidoro, the prince's tutor, have all the depth and power that one could ask. Joseph Ryan makes a delightful Dandini, the prince's valet. Sharon Sullivan and Robin Bradley are nicely matched as the not-so-ugly stepsisters who charm us with their jealous rivalry. They are all excellently supported by a male chorus of ten.

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Steve Callahan A native Kansan I have a BA (Math and Theatre) and MA (Theatre). I was working on a PhD in Theatre when IBM sniffed my math background and lured me away with money enough to feed my (then two) children. Nevertheless I've been active in theatre all my life--having directed fifty-three productions (everything from opera in Poughkeepsie to Mrozek in Woodstock to musical melodrama in Germany) and I've acted in seventy others. Now that I'm retired I don't have that eight-to-five distraction and can focus a bit more. I've regularly reviewed theatre in St. Louis for KDHX since 1991 and am tickled now to also join BWW.