Cleverly mixing contemporary and historical, director Stefan Herheim’s take on Rossini’s already heavily altered account of the Perrault fairytale puts the music (and composer) up front while having great fun with the story’s gender politics.
Don Magnifico, performed with great pomposity by Renato Girolami, is the spitting image of the older, paunchy Rossini. He descends from on high during the overture, a cupid riding a cartoon cloud, to guide events for Michele Losier’s Cenerentola – a modern day cleaner. The chorus all wear the same outfit (and wig) as Magnifico, often appearing to help push the plot along.
Daniel Unger and Herheim’s set is a concertina of fireplaces, increasing in size, which can magically turn to reveal a dingy backstreet, while much use is made of a sturdy catwalk between the pit and the house. Which allows the orchestra to become part of the spectacle – indeed conductor Stefano Montanari is discovered on stage at the start of Act II. The video design generates magnificent castles, suitable for Don Ramiro, but also illustrates Magnifoco as a flying donkey.
Much is made of Dandini’s relish in taking over his master’s role, as he takes his interaction with the conceited Clorinda and Tisbe to the limits of what Don Ramiro will accept. All are given a cartoonish realism. But this is still Cenerentola’s piece and Losier makes her a woman who knows what she wants from Ramiro; when she does get her man, her glorious coloratura both displays her satisfaction but also indicates on whose terms the contract is being made.