ROSSINI: La Cenerentola
Sonia Ganassi (Cenerentola); Antonino Siragusa (Don Ramiro); Marco Vinco (Dandini); Alfonso Antoniozzi (Don Magnifico); Carla Di Censo (Clorinda); Paolo Gardina (Tishe); Simon Ortila (Alidoro); Teatro Carlo Felice Chorus and Orch/Renato Palumbo, cond.

ROSSINI: Il Viaggio a Reims
Anastasia Belyaeva (Madame Cortese); Vladislav Ouspenski (Baron von Trombonok); Larissa Youdina (Contessa di Folleville); Danil Shtoda (Count Libenskof); Anna Kidnadze (Marchesa Melibea); Alexei Safiouline (Don Alvaro); Irma Guigolachvili (Corinna); Dmitri Voropaev (Belfiore); Academy of Young Singers of the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre; Stl Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
OPUS ARTE DVD VIDEO OA 0967 TT: 135 min.

ROSSINI: La Scala di Seta
Tullio Pane (Dormont); Carmen Lavini (Giulia); Tiziana Tramonti (Licilla); Ernesto Palicio (Dorvil); Mario Chiappi (Blansac); Roberto Coviello (Germano); Svizzera Italiana Orch/Marc Andreae, cond.

Rossini's comic opera La Cenerentola differs quite a bit from the usual Cinderella story. In Rossini's opera instead of a Fairy Godmother, we have the philosopher Alidoro, instead of glass slippers we have matching bracelets, the pumpkin/carriage episode is missing, and there is no big midnight waltz interlude. This production produced for Naples several years ago by Paul Curran is a somewhat different approach to the opera. Curran sets the story in the year 1912 "because he wanted to draw attention to social conflicts, and this was a period when class differences were very real." Actually, in today's era of inappropriate updatings of operas, Curran is civilized and imaginative. Filmed at Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa in May 2006, the elegant sets are by Pasquale Grossi, with colorful costumes designed by Zaira De Vincentiis (although it's difficult to understand why Angelina's costume during the ball scene includes a tiara with small light bulbs!). Sonia Ganassi (also seen as Adalgisa in Norma - see REVIEW) is magnificent in the title role, other singers are first-rate and everyone seems to be having a great time. Conductor Renato Palumbo misses none of the humor of the score. The only disappointment is the distant pickup of the singers who often are overpowered by the orchestra, but otherwise this is a delightful presentation of Rossini's charming and very funny opera.

La Scala di Seta is seen in a production filmed in 1983 at the Palazzo dei Congressi, Lugano, Switzerland. Peter Bissegger's sets and Franca Zucchelli's costumes are simple and effective and don't distract from the delightful music.The silken ladder is lowered by Giulia from her bedroom window so Dorvil, to whom she secretly is married, can be with her at night. Her tutor, Dormont has plans for her to marry Blansac, and we have the usual intrigues, sly servants and the like, all charmingly reflected in Rossini's delightful music. The cast is superb, particularly Carmen Lavani and Tiziana Tramonti who easily handle the coloratura demands of both their roles. The stereo sound is just fine, as is the photography. Subtitles are only in English. This is, as DVD videos go, a budget issue.

After seeing this performance of Rossini's last Italian opera, Il Viaggio a Reims, no one could ever say Valery Gergiev doesn't have a sense of humor. After its premiere in 1825, The Journey to Rheims was unperformed for 150 years as Rossini wanted to use some of the music in it elsewhere. Written on a commission to celebrate the coronation of King Charles X, the opera tells of adventures of a group of characters stranded at the inn of the Golden Lily. They cannot get to the ceremony because their luggage has been lost and thus must celebrate an event at which they will not be present. This performance, recorded in December 2005 at the Theatre musical de Paris, Chatalet, is a co-production of that organization and the St. Petersburg Marinsky Theatre. The young cast is extraordinary except for tenor Daniil Shtoda who is decidedly uncomfortable in Rossini's elaborate writing. Alain Maratrat's staging is ingenious with the stage extended into the audience, performers sometimes actually in the audience. The orchestra is at the rear of the stage, and conductor Gergiev wears a hat throughout. Mireille Dessingy's costumes are delightful, and they took the chance of having a horse on stage if only for a short time. The only debit to this DVD is sound quality. As one would expect with singers moving about as much as they do here, sometimes solo voices are almost lost. Still, there's much to enjoy here.

R.E.B. (May 2007)