Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

On the way back from a semi-staged production of Rossini’s La
the driver told me it might not be until 2020 until the
site is built. But with two auditoriums in the Staatenhaus, Oper Köln
has a very lively production slate. You could easily spend several days
here enjoying opera.

Alexander Soddy led the Gürzenich Orchester Köln with amicable
enthusiasm. Among comedic timing from the woodwind instruments especially
the bassoons popped. The conductor encouraged his strings into a sweeping
momentum during Rossini’s frenzied passages. Most of the time he
balanced his musicians, the men of the Chor Opera Köln, and soloists
with great results. However, in several moments the stepsisters and even in
a few instances Don Ramiro were barely audible.

Debuting in these roles and repulsive in full force, Judith Thielsen
(Tisbe) and Dongmin Lee (Clorinde) perfectly irritated as the stepsisters:
their voices deliberately unpleasant and annoying. They gave the audience
plenty of reason to smirk at them. Add to that their nauseatingly pink and
green gowns, and they convincingly filled their parts. Carlo Lepore as Don
Magnifico belted out his passages with great indignation. Andrei Bondarenko
charmed as Dandini, while he vocally impressed with his stamina and
musicality in “Come un’ape ne’ giorni

As he rolled in on a skateboard, sunglasses and all, Scala’s Don
Ramiro was more charming than a Disney prince. His regal voice had moments
of glory with his great range. Outside of his interactions with Angelina,
his highpoint solo occurred in the second act in “Si, ritrovarla io
giuro”, where he revealed the powerful reach and flexibility of his
voice, as well as his softer side during the subdued passages.

His chemistry with Adriana Bastidas Gamboa could be felt deeply. Indeed
they captivated with their duets. While she initially came across a bit
stiff in her modesty as Angelina, she lit up in her interaction with Scala.
Intense romance brewed between them, as the two looked each other in the
eyes. So convincing, it almost felt a bit voyeuristic to watch. You just
wanted to leave these two lovers!

While Bastidas Gamboa did not really persuade as Angelina in Act I, she
enchanted in her elegant gown suggesting pure virtue in the second act. Was
her singing meant to be so different before and after her metamorphosis? In
any case, her passionate duets with Scala were the vocal highlights of the
evening. Perhaps stimulated by her chemistry with Scala, but Bastidas
Gamboa fearlessly produced Rossini’s vocal acrobatics in
“Nacqui all’affanno … Non piu mesta” and received quite
the ovation.

There were some cleverly staged bits. The Staatenhaus’s
unflattering stagehand uniforms foreshadow Angelina and Don Ramiro’s
destiny when they meet in the first act. And the two singers still managed
to look good in them. Later, the gowns added fairytale splendor to the
scenes. The men in the choir actively made expressive faces in reaction to
the minimal acting on stage. Their mimicry amplified the tone of each

This La Cenerentola was a pleasing engagement with swooning
romantic moments as well as laugh-at comedy from the stepsisters and
stepfather. The audience enjoyed the evening with plenty of chuckles,
encouraging with applause and intermittent bravas for the soloists. The
sassy elderly dames next to me surprised me with their clear joy.

Green, purple, blue, and orange, Nicol Hungsberg’s atmospheric
lighting with its rich colours complemented Rossini’s vibrant score.
The enthusiastic audience response throughout also generated a very warm
ambience. The encouragingly high number of young folks surprised and
suggested the future of opera is far from dead.

While the Staatenhaus is far from inviting, even a bit chilling, this
La Cenerentola in Köln certainly lit up the auditorium,
especially for a mere concert.

David Pinedo

image_description=Scene from La Cenerentola [Photo by Klaus Lefebvre]
product_title=Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne
product_by=A review by David Pinedo
product_id=Above: Scene from La Cenerentola [Photo by Klaus Lefebvre]