While you probably already have your costumes set for tonight, there’s still one more chance to out your inner princess this weekend, with the final performance of Rossini’s infectious La Cenerentola from Repertory Opera Company in Pomona. In a season fraught with Cinderellas (with several productions throughout SoCal, presented recently and coming up from various entities), ROC is embracing the fairy tale with a hilarious cast and by placing the music center stage. We chatted today with artistic director LizBeth Lucca about how repertoire is selected, and what this now well-established regional company has coming up.
The opera was chosen for ROC’s 2016-17 season, as many are, based on the talent available — in this case the astonishing talent of the production’s lead mezzo, Nandani Sinha, who has sung the role of Angelina (Cinderella) before, led them to grab the opportunity and start the season with the classic fairy tale. The company’s mission has always been rooted in helping singers get their roles down through staged performance. “This is such a specific role, but it’s right in her fach.”
Keeping an eye out for young talent is an annual ritual, as Lucca has been a regular participant in the local combined auditions for the Southern California Opera Network (SCON), and this year has hired quite a few talented artists from that pool. Finishing up this season with Tales of Hoffman, for instance, offers many opportunities for the scores of sopranos and mezzos available in the area, especially when the show is double-cast. Listers have regularly expressed their gratitude for these opportunities over the years, particularly for the chance to work with Lucca, who has proven herself a stylish and creative stage director, and with music director Brian Farrell, whose following as a coach and artistic mentor is devoted indeed.
The other standout element of Repertory Opera is their philosophical stance against projected lyrics. Lucca herself describes the company as “religiously opposed to supertitles”, and instead has chosen to tweak some of the recitative so that audience members can follow the action. By cutting portions of the Italian “recit” and substituting English dialogue, the director can keep the action flowing and give non-linguist audience members a handle on what’s happening. For instance, during the scene where the ball’s mystery guest is being sought in the kindgom, there is some Italian singing, and then Alidoro asks in English, “Where’s your third daughter?” and receives the answer, “She died.” This is a simple technique, but not only very effective, it’s also often very funny. That’s how Lucca first conceived the approach, in her first production of The Elixir of Love, where a single English line inserted at a crucial point got such a good response that it has become a valued technique as the company moves forward.
In this production of La Cenerentola, Ms. Lucca reports (and is corroborated by local buzz) that both casts have been hilarious in their portrayals. “There’s a moment when Karen Hogle Brown says one particular line, and I swear it’s like we have Carol Burnett up there. We go through auditions every year to bring in new talent. This year, we’ve brought in a couple of new people who are really funny and promising.” The company showcases their regular stable of singers, too, of course, including Ms. Sinha, Kyle Patterson and John Hansen in this production, among others.
There is one performance left: this Saturday, November 5, at 2pm in Pomona. This opera is the perfect fairy tale for the season: the colors are bright, the singing is lovely, and of course the music stands on its own.
What’s next? ROC has been working their way through Puccini’s Il Trittico, and the deeply emotive Suor Angelica is next, coming in March. Like most of ROC’s events, the show will be double-cast, and one of the two singers playing the title role will be soprano Roksana Zeinapur, rapidly becoming known as much for her compelling acting as her charming voice. (The second lead will be announced — stay tuned!)
Principal cast for November 5:
Angelina (Cenerentola/Cinderella): Nandani Sinha
Prince Ramiro: Kyle Patterson
Dandini: John-David Wiese
Don Magnifico: Michael Valentekovic
Alidoro: John Hansen
Clorinda: Karen Hogle Brown
Tisbe: Belinda Paige Jimenez
Visit ROC’s website for schedule and ticket information
Featured princess image by Cindy Kalamajka / FreeImages
Season flyer graphics by Maggie Abeyta
ROC productions photos by Tadzio Garcia