Opera lovers ought to make every effort to get a ticket for Greensboro Opera's August 30 matinee performance of Rossini's La Cenerentola (Cinderella). There is not a weak singer in the cast and you will seldom ever hear such skilled coloratura singing. The staging effectively focuses the comedic and dramatic possibilities of the libretto and has fine sets and costumes. Aycock Auditorium is a good relatively intimate performance space. The opening night performance was a winner in every way.
Set in Italy, Angelina (called Cinderella) lives with a spiteful stepfather, Don Magnifico, instead of a bad stepmother (or any kind of "mother"). This baron has misspent Angelina's inheritance on his two shrill and vain daughters, Clorinda and Tisbe. Instead of a fairy godmother, Alidoro, a philosopher and tutor to Prince Don Ramiro, orchestrates a happy ending after multiple switched identities. To find the true nature of a potential bride, Ramiro has switched identities with his valet, Dandini. The road to the happy end is full of showy or comic solos, delightful duets, magnificent sextets and a quintet.
Greensboro Opera has a superb cast of skilled singer-actors who bring Rossini's characters vividly to life. The pair of lovers is ideal. Mezzo-soprano Sandra Piques Eddy as Angelina sings the socks off Rossini's bravura coloratura passages! Her lower range is so firmly supported it suggests an alto but when she soars seamlessly up her range – wow! Her intonation was exact and her execution of fast runs and ornamentation was breathtaking. What a rare treat it was to hear tenor Andrew Owens as Prince Ramiro match Eddy's vocal fireworks with equal fireworks.
Owens possesses an even and warm tone and has the ideal vocal weight for Rossini. Flawless intonation was combined with astonishingly clean fast runs along with plenty of unforced power.
Both lower-range voices brought plenty of comic flair to their roles. Bass-baritone Donald Hartmann was truly magnificent as the pompous embezzler Don Magnifico. His voice was superbly supported and has full, rich tone. The agility of his delivery of fast passages was remarkable. His comic timing was perfect. Baritone Sidney Outlaw used his even and rich voice with great skill pulling off some really fast passages with remarkable clarity. Outlaw has had a flair for comedy since CVNC first reviewed him when he was a UNC-G undergraduate.
Angelina's wicked stepsisters were very effectively portrayed by soprano Julie Celona-VanGorden as Clorinda and mezzo-soprano Clara O'Brien as Tisbe. Both deployed first-rate voices to create the two shrill, nagging, and selfish characters. Bass Timothy Jones brought plenty of stage presence and deep, rich vocalism to the role of Alidoro. The non-speaking role of a very young lady-in-waiting or crown-bearer was engaging done by Beatrice Eddy. Nepotism by the Prima Donna?
The smooth flowing staging was created by Producer and Stage Director David Holley. La Cenerentola is another winner to be added to his long roster of operatic successes. Conductor Willie Anthony Waters led his ad hoc orchestra of UNC-G faculty and students with style, and he kept close coordination between the pit and stage. Lighting Designer Jeff Neubauer's efforts were effective, especially Rossini's inevitable storm. Chorus Master James Bumgardner had prepared his male chorus very well indeed. They were excellent throughout some elaborate stage business, even when some had to "horse around" literally.
The effective scenic units, designed by Tony Fanning, were provided by Virginia Opera. Make-up Designer Deborah Bell made telling use of the fine period costumes supplied by Malabar Limited, Toronto Canada.
See the sidebar for information on Sunday's repeat performance.