The Triumph of Goodness: La Cenerentola at the Staatsoper Hamburg

Rossini – La Cenerentola

Don Ramiro – Xabier Anduaga
Dandini – Kartal Karagedik
Don Magnifico – Maurizio Muraro
Tisbe – Ida Aldrian
Clorinda – Katharina Konradi
Angelina – Annalisa Stroppa
Alidoro – Torben Jürgens

Chor der Hamburgischen Staatsoper, Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg / Matteo Beltrami.
Stage directors – Renaud Doucet & André Barbe.

Staatsoper, Hamburg, Germany.  Saturday, December 21st, 2019.

For this revival of Renaud Doucet and André Barbe’s 2011 staging of Cenerentola, the Staatsoper Hamburg assembled a tempting cast of both guests and ensemble members.  Following his outstanding Gennaro in Lucrezia Borgia in Bergamo last month, I was most eager to have the opportunity to hear the immensely talented Xabier Anduaga again, and having him in the company of Kartal Karagedik, Maurizio Muraro and Annalisa Stroppa made this a very enticing prospect.

Doucet and Barbe give us a futuristic yet cartoon-like setting.  This is a show that provides pure escapism – an ideal seasonal treat – and it was extremely well received by the Hamburg public who rewarded it with frequent applause and hearty laughter.  Don Magnifico’s household is a bank, with Angelina, simply dressed, dealing with the menial tasks of processing paperwork, as well as cleaning and cooking.  Don Ramiro is perhaps a film star – his castle is called ‘Studio City’ – and this idea of Angelina’s dreams coming true and finding romance with a photogenic movie star is one that I found most convincing.  This revival had clearly been well-rehearsed by Holger Liebig.  The intricate movements of the cast around the stage during the Act 1 finale were executed with confidence.  Costumes (Barbe) were opulent, the gentlemen wearing what appeared to be antennae on their heads, as well as space suits, the sisters some quite extravagant wigs, and Angelina herself a striking diamante number for the ball.  A troupe of robot-like figures on wheels performed a ballet just before the Act 2 finale and this was equally greeted by warm applause.  All credit also to Anduaga for continuing with his big number after the chorus members crashed his vehicle into the set as they wheeled it on from the wings – to the audible amusement of the audience.

Visually, it was sumptuous and always fun to look at.  Musically, there was a lot that gave pleasure if with one big reservation – so let’s get that out of the way first.  The disappointment was Matteo Beltrami’s conducting.  His was a reading that felt that it was never anything more than routine traffic marshalling.  Attack in the orchestra was crisp, but his tempi felt lacking in energy, even though they were often relatively swift.  Tension sagged frequently and there was a lack of pointing of the rhythms, of swing, of revelling in that typical Rossinian vigour, that the music cried out for.  The recitatives did crackle with personality, but that was as much due to having a cast that clearly loved performing this show with each other and were having the time of their lives.  That said, the orchestra was on good form, strings coped well, always unanimous in approach, and there was some excellent horn playing also.  The gentlemen of the house chorus sang with warm tone and executed their movements with enthusiasm.

Stroppa was an introspective Angelina, ideal in approach for much of the work.  Hers is a fuller, richer-toned mezzo than we often hear in this music with a rounded, weighty bottom.  She executed her coloratura with admirable ease and neatness – and made much of the text.  The voice does tend to discolour at the top and she did need to indulge in some heavy lifting to get up there.  It’s also not the largest in size and she didn’t quite impose herself on the final ensemble in the way that would have been ideal – though this was also of a piece with her interpretation as a whole and was definitely an intelligent way to make the most of her resources.

Anduaga was a sensational Ramiro and once again confirmed that he really is one of the most promising and exciting vocal talents out there.  So often one hears singers who have a lot of promise but technically have work to do.  Anduaga isn’t one of those.  He turned the corners immaculately, he brought out a honeyed legato, and the voice pings out on high with staggering ease and cutting power.  The voice is so exceptionally well placed and he’s such a charming interpreter.  There’s something about the voice that’s so special, as if coming from another dimension, the sunny warmth of the tone and ease on high mark him as a serious talent.  As I said in Bergamo, if you don’t know his name yet, you definitely will soon.  Anduaga is a singer of exceptionally rare gifts and I very much hope that he has the right people around him to guide him to help him make the most of his remarkable talent.

In the opening duet of the Act 1 finale, Anduaga and Karagedik struck sparks off each other, each outdoing the other in stratospheric variations to the line – it was fabulous.  Karagedik was a deliciously vibrant stage presence, absolutely full of energy throughout the entire evening.  His opening number was spun in gloriously long lines, with an elegant legato, and delightfully idiomatic use of text.  Maurizio Muraro was a massive vocal, and physical presence, as Don Magnifico.  The voice is huge, with rustic tone, delectable pointing of the text and irresistible comic timing.  Ida Aldrian and Katharina Konradi revelled in their roles as the sisters.  Konradi singing with a bright, crystalline soprano, with Aldrian’s fuller, milky mezzo both giving much pleasure.  Torben Jürgens had clearly worked hard on his assignment as Alidoro, with accurate turning of the corners and a full and resonant bottom.

This was a delightful evening in the theatre and despite a few reservations, notably regarding the conducting, getting to a see a cast enjoy themselves so much while offering some fabulous singing is a reward in itself.  That it was so well received by a youthful audience made it even more special.  With this Cenerentola, the Staatsoper most definitely has a festive hit.

Photo: © 2011 Klaus Lefebvre

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