Cinderella review at Grand Theatre, Leeds – ‘feel-good factor’

Amy J. Payne as Tisbe, Henry Waddington as Don Magnifico and Sky Ingram as Clorinda in Opera North's Cinderella. Photo: Alastair Muir
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The last of three works making up Opera North’s fairytale season, Cinderella – or La Cenerentola, given that the company perform Rossini’s sentimental comedy in Italian – joins the other two in rep before going on tour. Giles Cadle’s adaptable unit structure once again sets the scene, though so cunningly has he redesigned it that you would never recognise it.

Director/choreographer Aletta Collins turns the familiar locations – a rundown baronial hall and a palace – into a dance school run by Cinderella’s cruel stepfather Don Magnifico for the benefit of his star performers, her stepsisters Clorinda and Tisbe: the Italian text, incidentally, makes no reference to their appearance – their unattractiveness is purely behavioural.

Another unusual feature – at least if you’re expecting the panto version – is that no magic is involved: Cinderella is befriended by Prince Ramiro’s philosopher tutor, though his name (Alidoro translates as Golden-Wings) suggests that he’s an angel in disguise. But Collins’s action transfer seems to run out of steam pretty quickly and doesn’t really justify itself.

Yet there’s a feel-good factor to the show that is partly down to a solid musical performance under conductor Wyn Davies of what is usually regarded as the composer’s warmest-hearted comedy, but also due to sensitive and skilful dramatic performances in all the central roles.

Singing with commendable accuracy and touching personality, Canadian mezzo Wallis Giunta shines in the title role. She’s partnered by the exciting South African tenor Sunnyboy Dladla, whose confident top register, vocal fluency and presence ensure him success as Ramiro. Henry Waddington is a grandly mean-spirited Don Magnifico, while Sky Ingram’s Clorinda and Amy J. Payne’s Tisbe vie with one another at preening and prancing. Quirijn de Lang’s Dandini sounds a little thin but offers bags of courtier charm, while John Savournin brings gravitas to Alidoro.

 

Verdict
Solid music and acting provide compensation in a production that pointlessly alters the original setting
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