- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 4, 2004

The Washington National Opera opened the second stanza of its spring season at the Kennedy Center Opera House this Saturday past with a retro 1950s production of Gioacchino Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” (“Cinderella”). Frequently, such updates of old classics seem contrived. But this one was lots of fun, bubbling with life and filled with good singers who seemed comfortable in their sitcom roles.

Based loosely on the popular fairy tale, Rossini’s comic opera makes the prince’s entourage a cadre of three conspirators and gives Cinderella a nasty dad instead of a wicked stepmother. And Cinderella’s true identity is revealed by means of matching bracelets rather than the famous glass slipper. Other than that, one doesn’t even need Brian Fitzgerald’s uncommonly witty and frequently rhyming surtitles to kick back and enjoy an old favorite.

As Cinderella, mezzo-soprano Sonia Ganassi (Angelina) spent most of the evening dressed like Alice Kramden. Miss Ganassi’s voice, however, was anything but drab and ordinary. She negotiated loads of Rossini’s tricky vocal arabesques with scarcely a flaw and with superb enunciation to boot.

As Angelina’s dissolute dad, the inaptly named Don Magnifico, bass Alfonso Antoniozzi was brilliant in a buffo role without the traditional girth.



Just as much fun was the dynamic duo of mezzo-soprano Ann McMahon Quintero and soprano Hoo-Ryoung Hwang as wicked sisters Tisbe and Clorinda. Both are terrific singers — Miss Hwang having dazzled audiences as Adele in last fall’s otherwise forgettable “Die Fledermaus.”

As the prince’s disguised valet Dandini, bass-baritone Simone Alberghini was forcefully jovial, enjoying his every moment in the limelight, while bass Paolo Pecchioli as the prince’s tutor, Alidoro astonished with a powerfully elegant voice and a deft comic touch.

Only tenor Jesus Garcia as the prince (Don Ramiro) was somewhat disappointing in Saturday’s opening performance. Another standout in last fall’s “Fledermaus,” his is an elegant, lyric voice capable of incredible, sustained high notes and outstanding in its accuracy and control. But his gossamer instrument was frequently buried by the orchestra.

***

WHO: The Washington National Opera

WHAT: Rossini’s “La Cenerentola”

WHEN: Wednesday, Friday and April 15, 20, 22 at 7:30 p.m.; April 12 at 7 p.m.; and April 18 at 2 p.m.

WHERE: Kennedy Center Opera House

TICKETS:$41 to $285

INFORMATION: Call 202/295-2400 or visit www.dc-opera.org

MAXIMUM RATING FOUR STARS

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