There's a certain subset of opera fans who dismiss Rossini comic operas with a haughty wave. I'm decidedly not one of them. I love Il barbiere di Siviglia (and to answer your unasked question, yes I do think of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in "The Rabbit of Seville" every time I hear the overture). I came to love L'Italiana in Algeri after last year's hysterical revival with Jennifer Larmore, Samuel Ramey and Matthew Polenzani. And I REALLY love La cenerentola, now playing at the funny farm.
First of all, a word about the production. Can we invite producers and set designers of the world to a conference, and stipulate that tilted furniture, cracked mirrors, torn wallpaper, and peeling paint all represent Aristocracy In Decline? Can we just agree on that, and NEVER see these hoary and overused devices again? I mean it's been done to death.
All right, enough ranting. Let's get on to the good stuff, which in this case means Juan Diego Florez. Florez is considered one of todays hottest young opera stars. Resembling nothing so much as a long-lost Latino Backstreet Boy, he is a deft light comedian, dreamy romantic lead, and oh yeah, sings the deathly high fioriture like nobody's business. His second act aria, "Si, ritrovarla" got a full three minutes of well deserved ecstatic applause.
Sonia Ganassi took the role of Cenerentola. A thoroughly charming actress with the face of a china doll, Ganassi won over the crowd in spite of a voice that was somewhat unfocused, especially in the lower ranges.
The roles of Dandini and Don Magnifico were played by Alessandro Corbelli and Simone Alaimo, respectively. It is fascinating to watch the different approach taken by these two Italian singing-actors. Alaimo, constantly mugging, dancing about and generally just acting like a spazz, was not nearly as funny as Corbelli, who achieved better audience reactions with a mere raised eyebrow or simple gesture.
The marvelous Canadian bass John Relyea repeated his sonorously sung Alidoro, and Joyce Guyer and Patricia Risley made much of their roles as the stepsisters Clorinda and Tisbe (here, not so much wicked as merely airheaded and selfish). Edoardo Muller kept the orchestra spry and light.