Opera Center delivers superb production of "Return of Ulysses"...Deborah Domanski was spectacular as Minerva, bounding over the composer's arpeggios to brilliant, open high notes.

— Steven Singer, Pittsburgh City Paper

High Note for La Cenerentola

The Albuquerque Journal
Tuesday, October 06, 2009

By D.S. Crafts

La Cenerentola - Opera Southwest with Deborah Domanski

La Cenerentola - Opera Southwest with Deborah Domanski

“If you’re going to do Rossini, you’ve got to have the horses.” So a friend of mine once said. By horses of course, he meant singers. Not just any singers but those with an extraordinary range and flexibility. The harmonies are rarely more complex than in rock or folk songs, but the vocal lines are treacherously difficult, even out of reach for most singers. They require vocal gymnastics that “American Idol” singers couldn’t even dream of attempting.

Happily, I can say with rampant enthusiasm that Opera Southwest’s new production of “La Cenerentola,” or Cinderella, indeed has the horses. This is a cast with exceptional vocal abilities.

While the principals are essentially imports from New York, Santa Fe’s own Deborah Domanski stars in the title role.

Domanski has been building a substantial local reputation with both OSW and the Santa Fe Opera. Audiences should well remember her from “Radamisto” with the SFO as well as Cherubino in OSW’s production of “Marriage of Figaro” and the Prince in “Die Fledermaus.” Here she gives her most impressive performance to date, bringing a rich texture to the full range that this part demands. She leaps through the vocal hurdles of the final aria Nacqui all’affanno (“I was born to sorrow”) with an ease born of the most accomplished technique.

Played for high comedy, Rossini’s opera replaces some of the traditional elements in the Cinderella story with more realistic touches. There are no magic pumpkins turned into coaches and the glass shoe is replaced with bracelets. The core of the classic story about Cinderella, however, remains untouched as Prince Charming succeeds in winning the girl of his dreams. The cartoonlike sets perfectly convey the comic atmosphere.

That sense of comedy nowhere comes more to the fore than with the appearance of Stephen Hartley as Dandini, the Prince’s servant posing as the Prince himself. Dandini elicits waves of laughter before even singing a note, and Hartley knows how to command the stage with the best of them.

Ashraf Sewailam lends his smooth, rich baritone to the role of Alidoro, officially the Prince’s mentor, but who acts as a kind of master of ceremonies, providing a catalyst to move the action along.

Don Magnifico, too, Cinderella’s stepfather, sung by Stephen Eisenhard, joins the jocularity as he opens his wine cellar and lets the chorus drink and ham it up to their hearts’ content.

Andrew Drost, the real Prince, brings a sweet, high-sounding tenor especially to his second-act aria, which boasts some resplendent top notes.

The two stepsisters (anything but ugly here, though full of delicious nastiness) set the comic tone vocally and visually in the very first scene.

The orchestra deftly led by music director Anthony Barrese gives solid support, so crucially necessary in this music where the voices are frequently and perilously exposed. And don’t miss the “Punch and Judy Show” during the storm scene!

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