The beggar at the gate is a prince's mentor in disguise. His royal charge is dressed as a valet; the valet is posing as his master. The richly clad sisters are poor in spirit, their tatty half-sister covered in glory, and so on and so on. But no pumpkins, no rats as footmen: Rossini wanted his rags to riches fable to be true to life, and not a conjuring trick.
Nevertheless, La Cenerentola needs some pretty dazzling musicianship, its scintillating ensemble numbers in particular calling for pin-sharp pitch and perfectly judged dynamics. If the largely young principals in the new Opera Holland Park production don't always pull off this feat, this is certainly good-natured music-making, and conductor Dane Lam has wonderful players at work on the bubbling score. Director Oliver Platt introduces some comic effects with mixed results; the court as a stag hunt is amusing, with the brilliant Opera Holland Park chorus giving their all.
The highlight of the evening is the revelation to ambitious Don Magnifico that the man he takes to be a royal potential husband for one spoilt daughter or the other is, in fact, a servant. Jonathan Veira's baffled disappointment is a delight, and Nicholas Lester is in good voice as Dandini.
Maltese tenor Nico Darmanin is a dapper prince, but the singing is somewhat restricted, and as the mentor Alidoro, Barnaby Rea has a rich bass but with some free-range intonation.
In the title role Victoria Simmonds gamely picks her way across the coals that mark her domain below stairs while the demanding and amusing Clorinda (Fleur de Bray) and Tisbe (Heather Lowe), and father Don Magnifico, bark orders from the pistachio green, strawberry pink and chocolate brown of their Neapolitan ice-cream bedrooms.
Neil Irish's set turns in a trice into Prince Ramiro's pearlescent palace in a prettily dressed production, and the glitter-and-jet ballgown of Angelina, the Cinderella character, reminds us that, like all people, diamond and coal are made of the same element: how they turn out depends on the conditions.
|La Cenerentola review, Opera Holland Park 2016
|Opera Holland Park, Stable Yard, Holland Park, London , W8 6LU | MAP
|High Street Kensington (underground)
14 Jul 16 – 30 Jul 16, 14, 16, 20, 22, 27, 30 July, 7.30PM
|£17 - £70
|Click here for further information and booking