by Yayra Sanchez, Lister Reviewer
On September 17th, Center Stage Opera (CSO) kicked off their 12th Season with a production of Gioachino Rossini’s masterpiece, La Cenerentola. The Performing Arts Center of Reseda High School became the setting for this marvelous tale as the audience found their seats, eager to enjoy the adaptation of this beloved fairy-tale.
Enter Cinderella’s gaudy step-sisters and let the fun begin! Brilliantly played by Brooke deRosa (Clorinda) and Jessie Shulman (Tisbe), the “sisters” had great chemistry on stage. DeRosa’s bright and clear tone was nicely balanced by Shulman’s warm, velvety sound, and their over-the-top characterizations played off of each other effortlessly. Their interactions were even funnier when adding their father, Don Magnifico (Igor Vieira), to the equation. Vieira not only displayed his fine singing skills -especially during his Act 2 aria, but he demonstrated great comic timing, convincingly playing the buffoon of the show.
In stark contrast, Hannah Headland portrayed the title role of this opera, the hopeful and good-hearted Angelina (aka, Cinderella). Headland was beautiful as Cinderella, bringing this role to life with genuine acting and accomplished singing, with a lush, enveloping voice. Her vocal part ranged from slow melodic lines to faster, more challenging ones as the show progressed. The mezzo-soprano handled it all gracefully, keeping her vocal abilities in good form with expressive, clean coloraturas. Her last aria “Non più mesta” was a testament of her innate potential and artistry. Brava!
Brandon Lloyd played the role of the prince, “Don Ramiro,” with the gentle and elegant demeanor it requires; his light, agile voice was well suited for Rossini’s florid score. His companions, Dandini (Jay Stephenson) and Alidoro (Kurt Winterhalter), were pretty amusing. Stephenson’s character as a flamboyant Dandini was hilarious, supported by his adept singing throughout the show. And Winterhalter’s Alidoro came across as an honest, straightforward counterpart, with a sturdy voice.
Director Dylan Thomas‘ ability to enhance the humor of the story -and the score- was evident. His direction was clever, paying close attention to the wittiness of Jacopo Ferretti’s libretto, resulting in a quick, entertaining show. His choices were mostly big and bold, true to the Three-Stooges/I Love Lucy directing style that inspired him, and they worked. The comic timing in his direction was spot-on and had the audience laughing-out-loud on many occasions; for example, the hilarious scene between Dandini (Stephenson – still disguised as the prince) and Magnifico (Vieira – eager to know which daughter he chose to marry) in Act 2.
Rossini’s lively, bouncy, yet challenging music was eloquently played by the CSO Orchestra, under the baton of maestro Brian Onderdonk. The conductor achieved a nuanced performance of the score, especially in key orchestral moments like the “Storm” in Act 2. And the chorus, prepared by pianist and chorus master Mercedes Musotto, sang with a pleasant, unified sound.
The sets were simple but efficient, as they served their purpose to quickly transform the stage, as needed. The only issue I had with this performance was the balance between the orchestra and the singers. It may have been because of the curtains dampening the voices, the singers standing too far back upstage or the openness of the house but, at times, it was difficult to hear the singers over the orchestra. During Intermission, I moved back a few rows and the sound was much better; and, from that position I was able to really enjoy the full majesty of Rossini’s work.
All in all, with a talented cast, a sensible orchestra and fun storytelling, CSO’s production of La Cenerentola was a delight!