A mirthful portrait of Cinderella’s family and her struggle for love. A woman-led orchestra and direction, affordable and fully translated to English. An ideal introduction to the world of opera.
Wednesday 8 November, Northcott Theatre
by Khalil Talhaoui
As an opera regular, my preconceptions and expectations were overturned last night. Director and translator Jenny Ogilvie proves that opera can and must be translated to reach as many people as possible. If I had kids or nephews, I would run and take them to this hilarious masterpiece.
In Rossini’s version, Cinderella faces a tyrannical father and two castrating sisters. While looking for a bride, Prince Ramiro introduces himself to the family and accidentally meets Cinderella. A series of extravagant adventures follows that take the viewer from laughter to tears. The stage, decorum and performance are modernised, allowing spectators to imagine the scene in the suburbs of Bristol or Devon.
My experience of this show was marked by discovering a classical opera translated into English. Many purists claim that opera cannot and should not be translated. However, Ogilvie managed the impossible. Tonality, meaning, naturalness, singability, and rhythm are all preserved. Ogilvie offers us an understandable and relatable contemporary version. The company succeeded in bringing opera back to the people, through transgressions, and put to bed any sense of elitism. I came out convinced that opera must be adapted to survive.
Finally, Naomi Woo, the Canadian conductor for this performance, is part of a new generation of female conductors demanding and reclaiming these gendered spaces. Although a change has been noted in recent decades, women still represent less than 8% of conductors worldwide. Woo leads the orchestra with precision and vivacity for a meticulous and masterful performance.
If you liked Cinderella as a folk tale, you would love it as an opera. All-female leadership, both the conductor and the director, offer us a perfectly translated and delivered Rossini. Family-friendly, contemporary, and hilariously beautiful, English Touring Opera is at its best in Devon.
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