It may be that the Colón has never seen such a splendid presentation of a Rossini opera as the current "La Cenerentola" ("Cinderella"). It was the work of three important artists. The first two were Colón directors and the third has been an enthusiastic opera goer for decades. I am referring to Sergio Renán, three-time Director (not two as his biography says in the hand programme) and certainly in his most brilliant period one of the two best Directors of the Colón since 1950 (the other, of course, was Enzo Valenti Ferro). To Emilio Basaldúa, who took the Colón in the midst of the 2002 crisis and did a valuable job curtailed because his administration was cut short too soon. To Gino Bogani, famous costume designer that had never been invited by the Colón to collaborate in the staging of an opera.
The Colón has had prominent interpreters during the past half-century: Teresa Berganza and Lucia Valentini-Terrani as the protagonist, Renzo Casellato as Don Ramiro, Sesto Bruscantini as Dandini, Wladimiro Ganzarolli as Don Magnifico; Bruno Bartoletti and Steuart Bedford were notable conductors; and the productions by Joachim Herz and Roberto Oswald were certainly first-rate. All balanced, I´d say that the 1967 performances were the best, but the one I´m commenting on comes a close second.
Pride of place goes to the production. After a long period Renán made his rentrée as producer last year with "The Magic Flute", which unfortunately I didn´t see (I was on a trip). Now in his late seventies, he showed in this "Cenerentola" that his vivid imagination remains intact, and this time (it wasn´t always so) he chose admirable co-equippers. His first decision was to keep the visual side contemporary with Rossini; a pox on the German aridity and conceptualism that plagues Europe nowadays. But at the same time he incorporated technological aspects that enriched the goings on. That´s why the programme says that he is the creator of both "stage direction" and "audiovisual media": I had never seen the use of live video projection on a big scale of the singers´ faces in key moments, and it works admirably to heighten certain passages. Stage movements were psychologically logical and the whole had theatrical rhythm and animation. A charming touch was the airborne carrosse that transports Angelina to the feast.
He was greatly helped by one of the best stage architectures created by Basaldúa; making full use of the restored gyrating disk he built several structures, all of them fully adapted to the needs of the action. So he evoked perfectly the seedy home of Don Magnifico, the cellar in which the same character is named Great Sommelier or the lavish palace of Ramiro. All of it was done with great accuracy by the Colón workshops, who even in the uncomfortable conditions under which they labor are still first-rate. So there was beauty and appositeness on stage. To boot, Bogani imagined very beautiful gowns and other clothes within the style of the 1800s. And the lighting by Eli Sirlin gave Renán all the necessary contrasts of light and shadow.
Some quibbles: a) it was unseemly that early in the First Act the choir crossed hanging laundry within the house and saw Clorinda and Tisbe in their underclothes, b) the Storm was funnily illustrated with a filmed video of a 1920´s car, which jarred with the rest of the production. c) I see no reason for the inclusion of ballet in the Finale.
The cast: the four principals made their local debut. Serena Malfi is very young (born 1985) and will surely give her voice more volume and resonance with time. She started rather weakly (though I´ve often observed that the "new" acoustics cause some distortions in the balance: if I am seating on the left, stalls row 9, I hear the singer with less projection than if I were dead center or on the right). But she gained confidence as she went along; she looks nice, has an adequate style and her florid singing is already pretty good, if you don´t compare with Bartoli or Garança. Kenneth Tarver has the limpid high notes required as Ramiro, he looks handsome and moves well; he is colored, which at first takes some accommodation from the audience, but soon the loss in verisimilutude is compensated by his stylishness.
Dandini, the valet that impersonates Ramiro, needs a lighter touch than the rather rough handling of the role by Greek baritone Aris Argyris; competent but no more. On the other hand, the discovery of the night was the very good buffo Carlo Lepore, who has perfect control of the fast patter singing and of all the adequate gestures, so that he manages to be funny in what is after all a rather monstrous stepfather. Carlos Esquivel, curiously made up to look like Einstein, sang the wise Alidoro very well. And the two stepsisters made a fine team, singing and acting very convincingly: soprano Marisa Pavón and mezzosoprano Florencia Machado.
Reinaldo Censabella conducted with care and good tempi, with only minimal details out of joint in what is a very difficult piece, and the Orchestra sounded in good fettle. A pity that the announced Bruno Campanella didn´t come (no explanation), for he is a specialist, but the results were quite respectable. The Choir in the safe hands of Peter Burian made an agreeable contribution.
For Buenos Aires Herald