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A MODERN STAGING OF ROSSINI'S OPERA LA CENERENTOLA AT THE SLOVAK NATIONAL THEATRE

Top Pick: Cinderella workout

THE CHARACTER that children usually find the most fascinating in Cinderella's story is the fairy godmother who changes the pumpkin into a carriage and mice into horses. However, Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini and his librettist Jacopo Ferretti decided to give their opera a more realistic touch by setting it in 19th century Italy and leaving the magical aspects of the story out.
La Cenerentola was first staged in 1817 in Rome. Although it took the composer only 24 days to write, it has always been one of Rossini's most popular works, together with the Barber of Seville. Recently, the opera made it to Slovakia for the first time.


NEW production sets the opera in a gym.
photo: Courtesy of SND

THE CHARACTER that children usually find the most fascinating in Cinderella's story is the fairy godmother who changes the pumpkin into a carriage and mice into horses. However, Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini and his librettist Jacopo Ferretti decided to give their opera a more realistic touch by setting it in 19th century Italy and leaving the magical aspects of the story out.

La Cenerentola was first staged in 1817 in Rome. Although it took the composer only 24 days to write, it has always been one of Rossini's most popular works, together with the Barber of Seville. Recently, the opera made it to Slovakia for the first time.

Premiered on March 7, the National Theatre assigned the task of staging this work to one of the country's most acclaimed directors - Jozef Bednárik. He is known for his extravagant tastes, which he has shown in both his theatrical and operatic work, and this staging of the Cinderella story is certainly no exception to this rule.

The modern Cinderella is called Angelina (the angelic) and has an evil stepfather, Don Magnifico, who humiliates her and generally treats her badly. Because there is no good fairy to influence the plot, a teacher, named Alidoro, enters the scene and advises Prince Ramiro to look for a bride in Don Magnifico's palace. Wanting to disguise his identity, the prince comes dressed as a servant, letting his attendant Dandini play the part of the nobleman.

This leads to a comical situation typical of the comedia dell'arte genre. The virtuous Cinderella falls in love with the disguised prince when he comes to invite the family to a ball. Later, at the party, he falls in love with her, and she gives him a bracelet (instead of a glass slipper) as a token of her love before disappearing. The prince must then try to find her, and here again, Alidoro intervenes to help his protégé.

Bednárik, together with set designer Vladimír Čáp and costume designer Ľudmila Várossová, decided not to set the opera in a 19th century Italian palace, instead placing the action in a fitness centre called Fit-Palazzo Magnifico.

"We got rid of the sentimentality [in the opera] by combining opulent, period costumes with modern, sporty clothes," says Várossová. "We looked at the story with a smile, but not with mockery."

Besides showcasing such established names as Peter Mikuláš, Ján Ďurčo, and Ján Galla, this opera will be the debut for two young singers, Erika Strešňáková and Gabriela Hübnerová, who portray Cinderella's stepsisters. The performance also features an appearance by János Ocsovai, from the Hungarian State Opera in Budapest, who will alternate with Oto Klein and Marián Pavlovič in the role of the prince.

Some of the singers admitted that they had a hard time getting used to the unconventional fusion of the pompous contemporary robes and the green jogging suits.

"It may look like blasphemy to some people, but actually, it's all in there, in the music. It is poetic surrealism," says Bednárik.

The next performances of Rossini's La Cenerentola, in Italian with Slovak supertitles, will start at 19:00 on March 18, April 3, and April 28 in the opera house of the Slovak National Theatre (SND), Hviezdoslavovo námestie, Bratislava. Tickets cost Sk60-300. For more information call 02/5443-3764.

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