Metropolitan Opera 2013-14 Review - 'Cenerentola': Juan Diego Florez's Star Power on Display in Rossini's Charming Comedy
The Metropolitan Opera has already shown Rossini's "La Cenerentola" three times this season with a spectacular cast that includes Joyce DiDonato, Alessandro Corbelli, Luca Pisaroni and Pietro Spagnoli. On Friday May 2, Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez joined the cast in the role Don Ramiro and brought the star quality and charisma that he is known for.
The moment Florez stepped out onto the stage it was apparent that the singer was having fun, while still providing acute characterization to the noble prince. When he first walks into Don Magnifico's house, Florez looked all over the set and quickly gave the audience a face of disapproval. Then, when DiDonato's Cenerentola came in, Florez became a bit timid and he was hesitant in every movement. DiDonato herself reacted with hesitance, looking away when Florez made a move. The subsequent act one duet "Un soave non so che" turned into tender yet awkward scene that captured two young people falling in love but not knowing how to approach one another.
In the act one quintet "Signore, Una Parola," Florez's demeanor turned from sarcastic and romantic to one of anger as Corbelli's Don Magnifico threw DiDonato's Cenerentola to the ground. Florez's Ramiro could barely control himself and at times would attempt to run towards his beloved to rescue her, forgetting that he was disguised as a butler.
During the quartet "Zitto, Zitto, Piano, Piano," when Dandini tells Cenerentola's stepsister's that one of them would get the "Butler," Florez and Spagnoli had impeccable chemistry. When Florez began sliding across the floor and twirling around toward the two stepsisters, Spagnoli would laugh at each gesture and egg him on. While the two stepsisters were annoyed by these actions, it created a sarcastic mood that was ridiculous but at the same time hilarious.
In act two, when Ramiro decides to take on his true identity, Florez immediately exuded the elegance and refined character of a prince. During his aria "Si Ritrovarla, Io Giuro," he moved across the stage with a firm character but, during the section "Pegno Adorato," Florez stood in one position looking at a bracelet completely entranced in the moment.
During the act two sextet when he finally finds Cenerentola, Florez went on to take a piece of string and tie everyone in it. At one moment the string fell and some tension lingered in the air. Spagnoli quickly took it and gave Florez a glance as if the two were part of the plan; two great actors living in the moment. Florez quickly swirled around the five other singers, smiling as he worked his way and eventually sandwiched them together. However, when the joke was over and he saw that Corbelli's Don Magnifico and the stepsisters continued the insults, he took an authoritative stance that scared them to their seat.
Vocally, Florez continues to have wondrous florid runs. During the duet "Un soave non so che," Florez dispatched the patter runs effortlessly, and in the cabaletta "Ah Ci Lascio propio il core," his coloratura runs were graceful and smoothly sung. His voice meshed well with DiDonato's and it almost felt as if they were one.
The highlight of the night however was Don Ramiro's "Si Ritrovarla, Io Giuro." Florez began the aria with passion and ardor. He phrased each note with precision and climaxed with a high C. However, once he got to the slow section of the aria "che mi lusinghi almeno," there was an introspective quality to his singing. Each phrase was held out as if he wanted the moment to last. During the last "Come ti stringero," Florez diminuendoed into a pianissimo that silenced the house. When he arrived at the cabaletta portion, he sang "Dolce Speranza" with heroism. The aria is known for its multiple High Cs and Florez held each one out with incredible intensity. However, it was the final High C that ends the aria that was astonishing, as he held it through the end of the orchestra's coda. When he finished the aria he ran out of the stage with the chorus. However, the audience's ovation lasted a number of minutes and Florez returned to the stage to encore the second part of the cabaletta. This time around, he held the final High C even longer and with more intensity. It was truly a heroic moment that threatened to stop the show.
A previous review made mention of the remainder of the case, but it is still essential to point out some of the nuances and highlights of Friday's performance. DiDonato continued to surprise with her magnetic portrayal as the title character. She particularly stood out during her song "Una volta c'era un re." The song is repeated three times throughout the opera, and tells the story of a king who is bored and in search of his princess. In the first act, DiDonato sang it with a melancholic tone as if she herself were yearning for an escape. However, in the second act, DiDonato gave it a brighter tone that exuded the happiness of finding her Prince Charming.
Her other standout moment was the aria "Naqui all'affanno." Here, DiDonato sang each phrase with tenderness and beauty. However, in the "Non Piu Mesta," DiDonato dispatched the coloratura with virtuosity. Each color had a bright ring to it and her final high B was vibrant.
Spagnoli as Dandini was vocally impeccable, as he sang all his patter with clear diction and effortless coloratura. He sang his act one entrance aria "Come un'ape nei giorni d'aprile" with swagger and graciously moved around the stage, flirting with Tisbe and Clorinda. When Florez's Don Ramiro reminded him not to overplay his character and be more natural, Spagnoli exaggerated his movements even more. Another moment where Spagnoli stood out was during the act one finale "Mi par d'essere sognando." As he attempted to take a seat and was constantly being interrupted, Spagnoli's action became more abrupt as he threw things around.
As Don Magnifico, Corbelli brought his signature comic timing to the role. At one point he could be cruel, throwing DiDonato to the ground, but the next he could be hilarious, falling from his broken seat. Vocally, it seems the singer gets better as he gets older. His sound transmitted through the hall and his patter is still brilliant. He is able to quickly change the tone and character of the words with ease.
Luca Pisaroni's Alidoro was an elegant portrayal. His aria "la del ciel nell'arcano" had a consistent tone, and each phrase was delicately sung. His coloratura also impressed and no longer had the muddled tone that burdened his opening night performance.
Rachelle Durkin and Patricia Risley continued to bring their comic timing to Tisbe and Clorinda. They ran around the stage, falling over each other and bumping into one another. Their chemistry continues to be unique, and they are easily the best interpreters of these roles.
Fabio Luisi paced the performance with energetic tempi and attention to detail. However, the only gripe with his reading of the score was his overture. It felt too lethargic and lacked the energy a Rossini overture needs, particularly in his comedies. The coda featured some wrong entrances from the trumpets and the Rossini crescendo, which is supposed to build from a pianissimo to a forte, seemed too reserved; the strings did not seem to alter their volume at all throughout this passage.
Rossini's "La Cenerentola" is easily one of the comic gems of opera, and the current cast the Met has assembled is one that should not be missed; particularly the dynamic duo that is Florez and DiDonato. The production has two more performances with the final May 10 being transmitted live in HD.
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