Joyce DiDonato; Juan Diego Florez; Gran Teatre del Liceu; Patrick Summers
Decca 074 3305
It is such a pleasure to enjoy this completely original, very imaginative and colourful DVD performance of the 24 year old Rossini’s comic Cinderella masterpiece completed under great pressure in a few weeks for the carnival season of 1817. Original indeed. What an inspired idea to bring in the ‘Comediants’, a group of itinerant players who give outdoor impromptu performances all over Catalonia much like in the Middle Ages. The overall effect is the work of Joan Fonts (director) and it’s like a comic book fairy tale with strong primary colours that are ever changing with mirrors and the magic of backlighting. One hilarious feature is a group of anthropomorphic rats constantly moving around in the background following and silently commenting on the action.
And it’s a musical triumph as well. The two principals, Joyce diDonato and Juan Diego Florez are top of the line today in terms of bel canto singing. American mezzo DiDonato easily conquers the fierce technical demands of Rossini fioraturas but is also capable of pathos and introspection to move audiences with the warmth of her voice. Juan Diego Florez’s voice is spectacular in the high flying tessitura and he throws out the high C’s with the greatest of ease. After his aria in the second act “Si, ritrovarla, io giuro” the audience goes simply hysterical.
There is no disappointment in the three supporting baritone/basso roles either. Perhaps veteran Italian basso Bruno de Simone (Don Magnifico) stands out in his characterization, irresistible comedy and bravura Rossinian pattering, a feature that Arthur Sullivan adopted later into his English operettas.
Indiana born conductor Patrick Sommers is fast becoming a force to reckon with, especially in bel canto repertoire. His unerring beat of metronomic precision and graceful and stylish tempos, sometimes at lightning speed, contribute to an outstandingly memorable evening.