Magazine article The Spectator

Rossini Subdued

Magazine article The Spectator

Rossini Subdued

Article excerpt


Rossini subdued

La Cenerentola


La Clemenza di Tito

St John's Smith Square

Glyndebourne began in what is now the traditional manner: high winds and driving rain. This year there was the further discouragement of being kept out of the theatre until 15 minutes after the performance should have begun, which seemed wantonly unprofessional. Then the overture to Rossini's La Cenerentola began, and we were in whatever kind of paradise it is - a decidedly equivocal one - that Rossini provides. Vladimir Jurowski conducted with sovereign skill throughout, the rhythms gloriously crisp, the actual sounds of the piece often disconcertingly modern, every witty comment from the orchestra pointed but never overstressed. What Jurowski effected in the pit, however, he seemed unable to communicate to the stage, and the end of the overture was the end of most of the pleasure, until the storm in Act II, which often sounds perfunctory but here raged like Beethoven, and with telling stage effects from the director Peter Hall.

Hall writes illuminatingly in the programme book about Rossini, whom he has never tackled before. But much of what he says he fails to act on. He tells us, for instance, that the two sisters 'are not ugly, but sexy'. But the pair we saw were neither - unless presenting themselves in their underwear to the person they took to be the Prince was meant to be sexy. Nor were they particularly nasty to Angelina, whom they find irritating with good reason, since she will go on singing her moralistic little ballad, intending to annoy them. Hall insists that Rossini is writing a social comedy, or a satire on social climbing, which is why none of the standard magical props of the Cinderella story needs to be present. Yet the subtitle of the opera is 'Goodness triumphant', though oddly that is nowhere mentioned in the programme. I think it should be, and that it adds a layer of irony to the many that Rossini has already conjured up. For Angelina isn't actually very good, she is just put upon, and gentle with people who seem to be in the same position, hence her kindness to Alidoro in disguise as a beggar. She is quite as keen to be a princess as her two sisters are, but much more intelligent as to how to go about it. And she is adroit at dispensing forgiveness once she has got what she wants, so the opera ends with her morally upstaging everyone else.

That wasn't how it came across, however, because it was all so subdued. …

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