Rossini Opera Festival.
Marianna Pizzolato, outfitted by Carlo Diappi in a drab, ash-grey dress, displayed a rich, dark-hued voice in the title role. She sang "Una volta c'era un Re" tenderly, but saved the best for last, firing bel canto artillery in "Nacqui all 'affanno." Lawrence Brownlee was, by comparison, a vocally underpowered Ramiro, but he nonetheless thrilled the audience in Act II with his Cs in "Si, ritrovarla io giuro." Brownlee's acting was overshadowed by that of Nicola Alaimo, who commanded the stage as Dandini, pompously strutting about Il Duce-like, replete with an embonpoint that demonstrated he could eat for four. Alaimo delivered Dandini's entrance aria, "Come un'ape ne' giorni d'aprile," with humor.
Alaimo garnered laughs, something Paolo Bordogna would have done as Don Magnifico, the main buffo character, were it not for Luca Ronconi's direction. In this remount of a staging first seen in 1998, Magnifico came off as an overbearing individual who didn't think twice about throwing a bed pillow at his daughters or slapping one of them in the face. Ronconi's wanted to bring out the overt greed and latent beastliness in Magnifico, and in this was abetted by Diappi, who styled Magnifico's hairdo to look like a fox's head. Bordogna sang well, and delivered "Miei rampolli femminini" with a snarl. But he appeared too young, looking about the same age as his daughters.
Ronconi had these acting as if they were marionettes, at times mirroring the same gestures, looking completely frivolous in Diappi's haute-couture-in-spired dresses. Cristina Faus handled the role of Tisbe well. As Clorinda, Manon Strauss Evrard didn't pitch her first notes carefully. The production included "Sventurata! mi credea," composed by Rossini collaborator and recitative-provider Luca Agolini for the audience opera's 1817 premiere in Rome's Teatro Valle. Its inclusion, then as now, offset the symmetry between Tisbe and Clorinda, tilting the scale in the latter's favor. This aria comes near the end of the opera, and at this point, Evrard's high notes sounded somewhat fatigued and slightly shrill.
Alex Esposito's Alidoro was first seen as a white-bearded beggar before throwing off his rags in favor of his princely counsellor's garb. He pretended to pull the strings as Cenerentola was flown (a stunt double in a harness) high across the stage by a large white crane to Ramiro's estate. Esposito demonstrated his vocal agility in "La del ciel," the opera's longest aria.
Ronconi's production ended curiously. While the black-suited knights all knelt to honor the new couple, Don Magnifico sulked by the fireplace while his dejected daughters sat nearby. Clearly, all was not forgiven in Magnifico's household.