Washington National Opera’s production of a Rossini classic gets a bold twist.
By Patrick D. McCoy
There’s something quite special about opening night at the opera. Elegant gowns, handsomely-tailored tuxedos and an air of festivity dressed The Kennedy Center Opera House like a garment. The production of Rossini’s “Cinderella” by Washington National Opera, seemed to be a cross between the enchantment that we knew as children and the sophisticated spectacle of the theater.
Starring as Angelina, Isabel Leonard gave a convincing portrayal of the often dissed and ridiculed servant girl that we affectionately know as Cinderella. Though the storyline revolves around the idea of this fairy-tale-like princess, some of the most beautiful singing came from the supporting roles. As the evil stepsisters, Clorinda and Tisbe, soprano Jacqueline Echols’ voice was a constant throughout the evening, projecting effortlessly into the hall, while Deborah Nansteel sang with a warm mezzo that was a wonderful contour to Echol’s clear soprano. Together, the voices were a perfect blend, especially in the duet passages that often found Cinderella the brunt of the joke. Italian conductor Speranza Scappucci led with sensitive attentiveness to the singers, creating a wonderfully nuanced balanced with the orchestra and voices.
For the die-hard opera fanatic who may be expecting solid, florid singing throughout, this may not be the production for that. Often, the obnoxiously bright costumes and the sometimes overdone antics forced the attention of the listener to the staged actions and, perhaps by design, off the singing. It was certainly a take on Rossini that seemed to seek the approval of the audience, which was often rewarded throughout the evening with loud, boisterous laughter. Though it is wonderful to have the audience engaged with the music, many of these responses covered key cadence points of focus. If the aim of the evening was merely entertainment, then that was certainly achieved.
Whether you are a die-hard opera fan or coming to the art for the first time, Washington National Opera’s production of Cinderella presented an even, enjoyable experience for all.
After earning degrees in music from Virginia State University and Shenandoah University, Patrick D. McCoy has contributed arts pieces to CBS Washington and The Afro-American Newspaper, among others. He also writes the magazine’s monthly performing arts column “Perfect Pitch.” McCoy may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @PatrickDMcCoy.