The last time La Cenerentola was staged by The National Theatre was 1926. Since and even before then, there have been multiple stagings and interpretations: Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená arriving for the ball in a veteran blue car, performed in London; a Baroque setting in Vienna; a 1960′s setting in Stuttgart; and even a sci-fi odyssey in Hamburg.
Now, Hungarian director Enikő Eszenyi and conductor/composer Jan Kučera have put together a team that has fun performing this amusing version with a novel look, packed with radiant humour.
Judging from Opus Osm’s visit to the Jan 22 premiere, this Cinderella could attract not only opera fans, but also audiences that love old tales, and comic slapstick, all wrapped up in music in a surprisingly striking shell. (And we could also see a few children in the audience, all having great fun despite the evening hour.)
Fairy-tale Kingdom for a New Millennium
In this Cinderella, you are swallowed into a world that could be easily transplanted from the Prague 3 district, where the container terminal meets the luxury rooftop apartment. Angelina – La Cenerentola – a playful bookworm, lives with her stepfather in an adapted container with its meadow-covered roof. Meanwhile, Prince Don Ramiro enjoys life in the heights of the metropolis.
Don Magnifico´s biological daughters and he himself boast disco-hockey mash-up outfits with their glittery names shining on their sweatsuits, completed with T-shirts or furry animal slippers.
Meanwhile, the overlooked Angelina mops the floor and polishes container windows in a dreadlock hat or hipster glasses.
Don Ramiro covers his royalty in a Perfecto motorcycle jacket with an Amore stud design on his back, or a limo driver tee.
Not a new surprise in La Cenerentola, Angelina goes to the ball in a car. But this one is a limo arriving in the air and landing onstage. Striking is Hungarian set designer Kentaur’s airstair, to let the star of the ball walk down from the limo roof.
Hebelková in a Shimmering Debut
The vocalists admirably manage acting and singing, even though it often even includes an acrobatic show (look for Jiří Sulženko as Magnifico). The most significant excitement comes carried out by six main singers in robotic commotion, operated by Alidoro and his joystick.
But the jewel that shines in her Jan 22 debut, guest-role in The National Theatre is Jihlava native Kateřina Hebelková (now based in Germany). Her lively attitude gives the story a natural look and her voice sparkles in coloraturas and low tones. Her duets with Ramiro (Martin Šrejma) rise above the comic images on the stage.
The Feb 12 double-cast lead was sung by experienced Ukrainian guest artist Lena Belkina (Angelina), whose fairy-tale career is very close to Cinderella; she also performed the role in a very successful film version of La Cenerentola in 2012. Both sopranos will alternate the lead in upcoming performances.
The next performance of La Cenerentola will be again on stage at The Theatre of the Estates Feb 24, with further performances this spring in March, May, and June.
– Hana Blažková, Opus Osm writer
Photo Credits: Patrik Borecký