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David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2019

Released to mark the 150th year of Gioachino Rossini’s death, a boxed set of two of Glyndebourne Opera’s most successful, but very different staged productions. Directed by Peter Hall in 2005, we have his elegant and timeless approach to the composer’s setting of the Cinderella story, a version that shares very little of the very different pantomime story that has become part of the European Christmas festivities. Hall’s setting, that looks as if he was directing a Shakespearean comedy, has the downtrodden Angelina (who we would know as Cinderella) in the service of her two stepsisters who fancy their chances of a wealthy marriage. That seems to becoming true when news reaches them that the Prince is looking for a wife, and they have been invited to a ball in the palace where he will make his choice. Cinderella does not get invited, but the poor stranger to whom she had given food brings about that invitation, and, as they say, from there the story ‘ends happily for ever after’. Rossini did not fill the score with his usual abundance of memorable arias, but with the creamy voice of Ruxandra Donose, and the outlandish sisters, taken by Raquela Sheeran and Lucia Cirillo, the performance is outstanding. Add the fulsome voice of Luciano di Pasquale as their father, Don Magnifico, and Simone Alberghini as Dandini, and they rather overshadow Maxim Mironov as the Prince. The conductor, Vladimir Jurowski, obtains splendid playing from the London Philharmonic on peak form, and the engineers have provided an excellent and well-balanced sound.

By modern opera standards, Annabel Arden’s production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia would be described as ‘traditional’, the costumes—with the exception of Figaro—placing the action around the beginning of the Twentieth century, with one highly adaptable and attractive used in many permutations. The performance has the massive advantage of Danielle de Niese in the role or Rosina, for the part might well have been written for her both vocally and from a character point of view. The arias, however technically demanding, are sung with an unforced and liquid quality, and she enters into the comedy so naturally. Exactly the same can be said of Alessandro Corbelli as her guardian, Dr. Bartolo, his facial expressions saying everything the character is subjected to. Bjorn Burger took time to get into the part of Figaro, while Taylor Stayton is a gentleman Count Almaviva who gets dragged into the comedy. There are a few moments where I wish the highly experienced conductor, Enrique Mazzola, had injected more pace, particularly in the ensemble moments when on stage the action is becoming highly energised. But whatever reservations I have, this is a thoroughly enjoyable performance, and arguably the best on we have on DVD. You will notice in the clarity of colours just how filming has improved in the past ten years. The boxed set, Cinderella is on two discs, comes at a special price. Snap it up. © 2019 David’s Review Corner

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