La Cenerentola, Minnesota Opera

However, true to Minnesota Opera fashion of exploring creative
boundaries in time-honored operatic classics, this production successfully
synthesized Rossini’s repetitive musical ideas with stylized, slightly
buffo choreography, which brought life to an opera that too often
becomes a boring museum relic. With this dash of whimsy, coupled with a stellar
ensemble cast, even a fairy godmother couldn’t have concocted a more
magical show!

Rossini’s music is notorious for its repetitive melodic material as he
layers the orchestral texture with each succession. Stage director and
choreographer, Doug Varone, uses this evolving musical medium as inspiration
for his stage movement and choreography to further the drama throughout the
opera. In his notes, he states, “Staging an opera is very similar to
choreographing a dance. If it is done very well, movement ideas are wedded
beautifully to the score and can be used to tell the story in much the same way
a libretto does… By following my instinctive responses to the music, I
allow myself to create a movement scenario that imaginatively brings this aural
world to life.”

0885.gifDonato DiStefano as Don Magnifico

Varone wastes no time in bringing the magical world of Cinderella to life.
From the overture downbeat, the curtain rises on a sleeping Cinderella in a
dusty kitchen. The frantic rhythms in the orchestral texture highlight the busy
day ahead for Cinderella as she hurriedly cleans the kitchen, prepares
breakfast, and tries to ready her two comatose stepsisters for the day. The
music of the overture is often completely bypassed or only partially staged,
however in this production, we are allowed a unique look into
Cinderella’s world, and are even more informed than we would have been if
this additional staging were completely ignored.

Though this production was touted as Roxana Constantinescu’s
(Angelina) American debut, Minnesota brought in many incredible headliners and
supporting singers that truly allowed this ensemble opera to run seamlessly. A
wonderful surprise came from MN Opera’s Resident Artists, Victoria Vargas
(Tisbe) and Angela Mortellaro (Clorinda). Both performers embodied their
buffa characters completely — Vargas maintained a lovely, full
mezzo-tone in her vocal delivery, yet had wonderful physical comic timing,
while Mortellaro allowed her voice to become slightly shrill in some of her
recitatives to fully evoke her spoiled character.

4339.gifAngela Mortellaro as Clorinda, Roxana Constantinescu as La Cenerentola (Angelina) and Victoria Vargas as Tisbe

Roxana Constantinescu’s performance as Angelina will certainly open
more doors for her in the states. Constantinescu has recently been performing
in the Vienna Opera’s ensemble for the 2009-2010 season, singing roles
such as Zerlina and Rosina. The role of Angelina has been part of her repertory
since her debut at the Teatro Politeama di Lecce. Constatinescu played an
endearing Angelina, highlighted by a warm, velvety tone full of connection and
lyricism. Her performance of the lyric canzone “Una volta c’era un
re” executed exquisite long lines coupled with impeccable phrasing. Her
tour de force aria of Act II, “Nacqui all’affanno, al
pianto,” shimmered with impeccable, perfectly rhythmic coloratura lines,
no doubt influenced by her percussionist background. Unfortunately, her final
high notes in the ensemble texture of Act II lacked warmth and finesse found in
her lower lyric lines and coloratura. It was unclear whether Constatinescu was
vocally exhausted by the demands of Act II, or felt she had to power over the

John Tessier (Don Ramiro) had such honesty and simplicity in both his stage
presence and his vocal ability. Tessier is certainly put to the test in his
aria, “Si, ritrovarla io giuro.” As he sings of his love for this
mystery woman, the prince’s valet entourage lifts him up to be undressed
and re-dressed into his proper attire. This is all done, of course, as Tessier
executes one flawless coloratura line after another, followed by crystal clear
high C’s. Truly one of Varone’s more daring staging ideas, but
Tessier made the whole ordeal seam like simple child’s play.

3755.gifRoxana Constantinescu as La Cenerentola (Angelina) and John Tessier as Don Ramiro

Daniel Mobbs (Alidoro) is the final surprise in this stellar ensemble cast.
With a rich bass-baritone, Mobbs astounds with his flexible and incredibly
accurate coloratura and command of the bel canto line. With an
unshakeable stage presence, Mobbs seemed to command attention in each scene.

An attentive male chorus, executing complicated group staging throughout,
rounded out the ensemble. Timing and Italian diction did seem to be sloppy at
times, especially in the more parlando sections, but overall supported
the scenes well. The Minnesota Opera Orchestra did especially well, determined
to keep up with Maetro Christopher Franklin’s demanding

Sarah Luebke

image_description=Roxana Constantinescu as La Cenerentola (Angelina) [Photo by Michal Daniel courtesy of Minnesota Opera]
product_title=Gioachino Rossini: Cinderella (La Cenerentola)
product_by=La Cenerentola (Angelina), Don Magnifico’s stepdaughter: Roxana Constantinescu; Don Ramiro, Prince of Salerno: John Tessier; Dandini, valet to Don Ramiro: Andrew Wilkowske; Don Magnifico, Baron of Monte Fiascone: Donato DiStefano; Clorinda, his daughter: Angela Mortellaro; Tisbe, his daughter: Victoria Vargas; Alidoro, tutor to Don Ramiro: Daniel Mobbs. Conductor: Christopher Franklin. Stage Director and Choreographer: Doug Varone. Set Designer: Erhard Rom. Costume Designer: James Schuette. Lighting Designer: Jane Cox.
product_id=Above: Roxana Constantinescu as La Cenerentola (Angelina)

All photos by Michal Daniel courtesy of Minnesota Opera