WORKS: La Cenerentola
PERFORMER: Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Floréz, David Menéndez, Bruno de Simone, Cristina Obregón, Itxaro Mentxaka, Simón Orfila; Gran Teatre del Liceu Orchestra and Chorus/Patrick Summers; dir. Joan Font (Barcelona, 2008)
CATALOGUE NO: 074 3305 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)
Rats! I thought we’d seen the back of this widely travelled staging, but its appearance on DVD means there’s no escaping the Catalan director Joan Font’s low-budget panto presentation of Cenerentola, stage-managed by six large yet balletic rats, in which the entire action is ‘revealed’ to be the heroine’s dream (yawn). La Cenerentola is one of Rossini’s greatest masterpieces, a sparkling work with a very dark side; to treat it as a gag-fest of mock operatic acting (in Joan Guillén’s gaudy designs) suggests a return to the bad old days before Rossini was properly understood.
There was, as it happens, a good reason for filming the production (also seen in Houston, Cardiff, Brussels and Geneva) at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu: the leading roles are taken by two of today’s top Rossinians, Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Flórez. If you can look past their hideous costumes, both give outstanding performances, with all their trademark agility in Rossini’s coloratura, and Joyce DiDonato’s warm mezzo is especially winningly caught here. But neither singer has anything especially to say in the offstage interviews that form the DVD’s bonus feature.
Bruno de Simone’s Don Magnifico feels a little lightweight, and the rest of the cast have their merits, yet no one makes much of an impression against this toytown backdrop. Setting a deadening seal on events, Patrick Summers is a plodding Rossinian, who – from the very first appearance of what should be an edge-of-seat Rossini crescendo – misses most of the great opportunities conductors are provided in this score. Those wanting this opera on DVD should try the classic Bologna production (as staged in Houston 1995) with Cecilia Bartoli on Decca. John Allison