WORKS: La Cenerentola
PERFORMER: Elina Garanca, Lawrence Brownlee, Simone Alberghini, Alessandro Corbelli, Rachelle Durkin, Patricia Risley, John Relyea; Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Maurizio Benini; dir. Sharon Thomas (New York, 2009)
CATALOGUE NO: DG 073 4577
It’s like seeing a stylish 19th-century Brownstone building set beside a skyscraper. The Met in New York is a barn of a building and on that vast stage Rossini’s knowing little fable of greed humbled and the humble exalted, is all but dwarfed.
Literally diminished, too, by Maurizio Balò’s modish sets – acres of decrepit sofa for Don Magnifico as he dreams of grandfathering a royal dynasty, Brobdingnagian doors to Ramiro’s palatial mansion, and a towering wedding cake for the Prince and his bride to perch on in the final scene.
And Rossini’s modest band of courtiers become a mighty choreographed army sporting different hats for different scenes, with conductor Maurizio Benini doing his best to keep it all together. Get a hat, get ahead? Who knows? It’s fine to fast forward the costumes to an early 20th-century Ruritanian age of Empire, but deprive this opera of its human scale and you blunt the satire and sugar the sentiment.
Something happens to the comedy, too: to get the jokes across the footlights into the acres of auditorium beyond, a director needs the broadest brush. So the ugly sisters Rachel Durkin and Patricia Risley grimace and pout like refugees from an Expressionist movie and Alessandro Corbelli’s Don Magnifico mugs for Olympic gold.
If Lawrence Brownlee, a suitably lyric tenor, strains at every turn there is always Elina Garanca as La Cenerentola, who knows that the best you can hope to do in the Lincoln Centre Barn is stand and sing.
And what singing! Wonderful smoky tone, properly mezzo, and dazzling decoration in her closing aria ‘Nacqui all’alfano’. But even Garanca has to grin like a Cheshire Cat to get the audience purring. Christopher Cook