This DVD issue has drawn mixed reviews from a variety of respected critics. I must say that I am puzzled at their reactions because this is a splendid production in almost every respect, from the conducting of young Vladimir Jurowski (son of veteran conductor Mikhail Jurowski), to the singing of the principals; from the playing of the London Philharmonic and singing of the Glyndebourne Chorus, to the colorful staging of Sir Peter Hall. In fact, I find this opera production one of the most enjoyable I've encountered in quite a long time. If I were to compile a top ten list of the best recordings for the past year or so, this one would certainly be a candidate.
You know you are moved by a performance of this opera when you find Don Magnifico a repugnant but enchanting scoundrel – the kind of rat you love to hate; and when Cinderella's sisters strike you as a pair of petty, jealous bitches you can't wait to be rejected by the prince; and when you are so utterly charmed by Angelina: Ruxandra Donose really looks and sings the part of Cinderella. In fact, much of the success of this production must be credited to this young Romanian mezzo, even though she is not without her flaws: she may sing a bit too softly in a few places, though she clearly possesses adequate power. Otherwise, she is fine vocally, having one of the most attractive mezzo voices I've ever heard, especially in the upper register. Her dramatic skills are first-rate, too. I would say she could become a major star of the operatic stage.
As suggested above, Luciano Di Pasquale's Don Magnifico is brilliant, full of spirit in his charmingly evil but deliciously comic character. Try his knockout aria near the beginning of Act II to sample the wide range of his operatic skills here: Singing words at breakneck speed that many would stumble over and doing a voice others might embarrass themselves with, he gets through these passages and every other gauntlet unscathed and completely confident. Maxim Mironov is excellent as Don Ramiro, though some might find the bright sound of his voice a little too boyish. Cinderella's sisters Raquela Sheeran and Lucilla Cirillo are fine, too.
Vladimir Jurowski leads the proceedings with a good sense for the comic and often dark character of the work, and draws fine playing from his orchestra. As mentioned above, Sir Peter Hall's stage direction, imaginative in its traditional approach, is also absolutely excellent. This DVD issue, drawn on live performances from May, 2005 at the Glyndebourne Festival, is one of the finest opera productions in recent years. Highest recommendations!
Copyright © 2006, Robert Cummings