Rossini, La Cenerentola: Soloists, Orchestra of Scottish Opera, The Chorus of La Cenerentola, William Lacey (conductor), Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 19.11.2014 (SRT)
Angelina: Victoria Yarovaya
Don Ramiro: Nico Darmanin
Don Magnifico: Graeme Danby
Dandini: Richard Burkhard
Alidoro: John Molloy
Clorinda: Rebecca Bottone
Tisbe: Máire Flavin
Director: Sandrine Anglade
Designer: Claude Chestier
Lighting Designer: Eric Blosse
With the renovation of Glasgow’s Theatre Royal nearing completion, Scottish Opera have mounted a much more ambitious season for 2014-15, with five fully staged operas, including a new production of Macmillan’s Inés de Castro, plus a chamber Macbeth. It’s a big step up from last year’s rather paltry offering of only three fully staged productions and is to be loudly welcomed.
So it gives me no pleasure to report that this Cenerentola was one of the least satisfying evenings I’ve had from them in a long time. The first problem was the bland production of Sandrine Anglade. The sets consisted of nothing more than six wardrobes and a few chairs, which were shuffled around to suggest different locations. The costumes, barring some garish colours for the Magnifico family, were monochrome and dull, and the half-hearted attempts at creating some motifs (umbrellas and luminous rings, anyone?) were poorly thought through. But the main issue was her appalling direction of the singers. If they were given anything to do at all, then the characters were given the same thing to do repeatedly. Don Magnifico’s blustering was even more tiresome than usual, and I lost count of the number of times that Dandini shrugged or the sisters fainted in shock. She clearly didn’t have a clue what to do with the chorus, either, as she got them to prance around distractingly during the scenes that should have been comical due to the interactions between individuals which were here reduced to barely anything, and they crossed the stage to no effect at several points, including the overture. It’s a damning indictment to say that I found my fingers drumming repeatedly, and that’s never something that should be said of Rossini.
Nor was it a vintage evening of bel canto singing. Victoria Yarovaya had next to no Italianate style and, more damagingly, a worryingly limited range. She swallowed her low notes, was strained at the top, and impressed only in the rapid-fire coloratura in the middle of the voice. Graeme Danby was regularly swamped by the orchestra, and John Molloy sang Alidoro with a cool voice that seemed perpetually to be looking for the note. Richard Burkhard’s Dandini was better, as were the two sisters, but the only unqualified success was a very promising debut from Maltese tenor Nico Darmanin. He’s still a work in progress, but he has an exciting voice with plenty of ping, bringing a splash of sunlight to the vocal line and demonstrating that he is totally unafraid of Rossini’s sometimes fiendish runs and leaps.
Beyond this, it was left to the orchestra to save the musical evening, and they did so, playing with flair and sparkle, brought to life by the well-judged conducting of William Lacey. On the whole, though, this evening was flat and forgettable, and it’s hard to imagine that this is the same company who, only five years ago, did such brilliantly successful Rossini in The Italian Girl in Algiers. Let’s hope that the rest of the season holds more joy.