Her voice was rich, smooth and balanced, her technique rock-solid and every syllable clearly projected.

— Eric Haines, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

La Cenerentola

The Albuquerque Journal

grown-up fairy tale
Sunday, September 27, 2009
By David Steinberg

Cinderella is a classic fairy tale that has crossed cultures. One of the earliest versions supposedly goes back to ancient Greece.

Not surprisingly, the subject has been transformed to the opera stage in the form of Gioachino Rossini’s popular “La Cenerentola,” which premiered in 1817.

Opera Southwest will give it three performances at the KiMo Theatre Saturday, Oct. 3, and Oct. 9 and 11.

But the Rossini opera is aimed at all ages. It’s not a children’s opera. “It’s the same story, but a little more mature,” said David Bartholomew, stage director of the production and artistic director of the company.

Except for the title character, whose name is Angelina, the prince, who is Don Ramiro, and the virtuoso singers, the characters in the small cast are comical, Bartholomew said. He thinks of the opera as being closer to a romantic comedy than to a fairy tale.

Mezzo-soprano Deborah Domanski, who sings the title role, is the reason why Opera Southwest chose to do this opera, Bartholomew said. “(Music director) Tony Barrese and I talked about her doing a ‘Cenerentola’ for us, with her skills … primarily vocal skills. It calls for a mezzo-soprano voice with a lot of agility, fast singing and high singing all over the range,” the stage director said.

“That’s Deborah’s strong point — having that kind of coloratura voice.”

Bartholomew said there were other factors in choosing Domanski: She’s a New Mexico singer, she’s performed in two previous Opera Southwest productions and she had stepped in at the last minute in the role of Zenobia in the 2008 Santa Fe Opera production of “Radamisto.”

“She had wonderful reviews, and the response to her performance was very good. On the scale that the Santa Fe Opera is, it was quite a coup for a younger singer,” he said.

Domanski said she’s been waiting to sing “La Cenerentola” until her voice has matured to fit the role.

“The final aria (“Nacqui all’affanno … Non piu mesta”) is one of the great mezzo-soprano feats that is in all opera, and probably one of the most difficult arias in the mezzo-soprano repertoire,” she said in a phone interview from her Santa Fe home.

In the aria, Domanski said, her character sings of being “born to woe and weeping. Through some sweet, enchantinglike flash of lightning, my luck has changed.”

She wants to portray her character not as a person who deserves sympathy, but something different. Dramatically, she said, sympathy goes only so far and then it gets boring.

“She’s so charming, so cool, so funny, and she has all this fast coloratura,” Domanski said. “Someone depressed, downtrodden wouldn’t sing anything like that. She’s a very loving person. That’s why the prince is drawn to her.”

The opera’s subtitle happens to be “Goodness Triumphant.”

Among the other singers in the production are Andrew Drost as Don Ramiro, Stephen Eisenhard as the stepfather Don Magnifico and Moira Kelley as Clorinda and Andrea Kiesling as Tisbe, the two stepsisters.

Bartholomew said the Opera Southwest is re-imagining its production theatrically and visually by turning the KiMo stage into a Victorian toy theater. An English family parlor entertainment, the toy theater represented a grand theater, he said.

“It’s a wonderful theatrical, operatic devise that adds another dimension,” he said. “It’s the perfectly scaled piece for all the forces of Opera Southwest, the principal of which is the intimacy of the KiMo.”

If you go

WHAT: Gioachino Rossini’s opera “La Cenerentola.” Sung in Italian with English supertitles

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3. Repeats 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9 and 2 p.m. Oct. 11

WHERE: KiMo Theatre, Fifth and Central NW

HOW MUCH: Tickets for the general public are $20, $25, $45, $55 and $65 and are available in advance at the KiMo box office, at Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 243-0591 or 800-745-3000. Discounts for seniors, students, children 12 and under and groups

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