We’re often leery of “updated” productions, but the Skylight had good success with their “Mad Men” inspired version of “Cosi Fan Tutti,” so we were optimistic about this show, and not disappointed.
During the overture, we see the stepsisters, Clorinda (Erin Sura) and Tisbe (Kristen DiNonno), stepping out for a night on the town. Then, “selfies” from their night out show them getting progressively drunker and more disheveled. When the curtain comes up, they are sprawled unconscious in their boudoir, which looks like the aftermath of a neon-colored closet explosion. (Clothing designer Cesar Gallindo created the costumes for the performance, which were very effective and beautiful, although the stepsisters, in particular, have awful taste--.)
Cinderella (Sishel Claverie) enters to tidy up, which includes emptying the sisters’ noisome ashtrays. (We thought this was a clever way to preserve the “ash girl” motif.) Constant smoking is just one of Clorinda and Tisbe’s bad habits, which include foolishness, vanity, and selfishness. The English libretto by Amand Holden does a good job of showing that the sisters, who are quite attractive women, have their ugliness on the inside.
When we meet their father, “Don Magnifico,” (Andy Papas), it’s apparent that the apples didn’t fall far from the tree. Papas is very funny portraying the paterfamilias as gross, lazy, and greedy.
When Rossini agreed to adapt the story of Cinderella for the opera, he did so on the condition that there would be no supernatural elements, so there are no fairy godmothers, pumpkin coaches (or singing mice--). Instead, Cinderella’s benefactor is Prince Ramiro’s tutor, Alidoro (LaMarcus Miller).
Alidoro acts as advance scout for the Prince’s wife-hunting expedition. Disguised as a beggar, he goes house to house, looking for young women who are good and kind as well as beautiful. He finds one in Cinderella, who gives him bread and coffee in spite of the sister’s orders. When Ramiro (Luke Grooms) arrives, also disguised, this time as his valet, Dandini (Dimitrie Lazich), the supposed real advance man for the Prince, he is irresistibly attracted by Cinderella’s eyes.
Alidoro provides Cinderella a gown and gets her to the ball, where the Prince falls in love with her. Instead of the glass slipper, she gives him one of a pair of bracelets, which he can use as a clue to find her. The remainder of the story plays out in the familiar fashion, with much comic outrage on the part of Don Magnifico and his daughters when the Prince declares his intention to marry the girl they disown and claim is only a servant. Cinderella demonstrates her goodness for all by forbidding the Prince to punish them, and expressing her forgiveness.
All the singers were in good voice, and both sang and acted well, and they and the chorus adeptly executed the often wonderfully funny stage directions by Jill Anna Ponasik. The “red carpet” scene arriving at the Prince’s palace was a tour de force for stage direction, costume design, and quick-changing chorus members. The orchestra, under the direction of Viswa Subbaraman rendered Rossini’s score faultlessly and in excellent support of the singers.
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