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REVIEWS: Classical review; La Cenerentola Welsh National Opera Birmingham Hippodrome *****.

Byline: Maggie Cotton

A neatly polished overture from the predictably excellent WNO orchestra set the scene for a bright panto evening of 25-year-old Rossini's La Cenerentola conducted by Gareth Jones.

Bright sweetie-tin colours enhanced bizarre costumes focused against an ingenious stage set reliant upon subtle lighting effects and simple manoeuvres.

Six enchanting rats were omnipresent; graceful, amusing and silent onlookers, but a crucial element also involved with vital scenery and props rearrangements.

Rossini certainly stretches all voices, no more so than Marianna Pizzolato's warm mezzo soprano as Cinderella, taken to occasional dizzy heights from beautiful melodic lines to dazzling florid passages with spot-on vocal acrobatics, clear articulation and totally convincing acting.

Wonderfully bitchy ugly sisters missed not a wicked turn of phrase, their rapidfire text causing no problems.

Duos to sextets were challenged with tricky melismata - groups of notes sung to a single syllable - featured throughout, clear and brilliantly verbalised.

Intricate passages tripped off the tongue carried by speedy semiquavers, with a final energetic sextet playing with language in a mind-teasing patter song.

Oh to have sneaked in to what must have been hilarious, if intense rehearsals.

This is comic opera at its best, bubbling with fun and perennially fresh, but not without a serious vocal tour-de-force from sorcerer Andrew Foster-Williams holding forth with magnificent declamations.

Tenor Colin Lee was a convincing lover as Don Ramiro, a fine foil to Earle Patriaco's necessarily over-the-top Dandino. A splendid male chorus came to into their own with an inevitable drinking scene, much enjoyed by all.

Rossini (or 'Signor Crescendo') delivered the goods not only with his recognisable thumbprints, but throughout with ingenious and delightful variety.

Not to be missed!

Next performance is today at 7.15pm
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 24, 2007
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