In Review > North America

La Cenerentola

SANTA BARBARA, CA
Music Academy of the West
7/30/15

THE MUSIC ACADEMY OF THE WEST'S annual opera production has long been a reliable showcase for fine young vocalists. With Marilyn Horne now in her twentieth year at helm of the Academy’s voice program, and with the support of a strong vocal faculty, the Academy has no trouble attracting talented singers. But while the voices have been consistently strong, past productions have occasionally fallen short when it came to elements outside of the vocal sphere. Happily, this was not the case with this year’s production of Rossini’s Cenerentola,which achieved a new level of polish and sophistication.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the production was how fully and comfortably the young singers seemed to inhabit their roles, bringing a naturalness to their stage movements that is not always seen on the operatic stage. This is no doubt a tribute to both the talent of the cast and the skillful direction of David Paul. A member of the faculty at Juilliard School, Paul is now in his fourth year directing the Music Academy’s annual opera. He was also responsible for crafting the opera’s supertitles, which presented the libretto in an amusingly vernacular translation, while never straying so far from the spirit of the original as to be distracting.  

The energetic cast, most of them under the age of thirty, seemed remarkably adept at accomplishing both their musical and dramatic duties. Adanya Dunn and Deanna Pauletto, playing the stepsisters Clorinda and Tisbe, put in engaging performances throughout, while Cesar Torruella made for a memorably imposing Don Magnifico. Vincent Turregano was delightful as the prince-impersonating Dandini, while Michael Hewitt, as Alidoro, received extended applause for his impassioned performance of “Là del ciel nell’arcano profondo.” Christopher Yoon brought a vibrant tone to the part of Prince Ramiro, while the Turkish soprano Beste Kalender was an immediately captivating presence in the title role. With a voice that is both fluid and expressive, Kalendar seems particularly well-suited for Rossini’s characteristic mix of soaring melodic lines and rapid patter. The robust male chorus comprised Academy students as well as members of the Santa Barbara community. 

The elegant costuming and the handsome modular set were the work of designer Sandra Goldmark. The clever scenic transformations, carried out by members of the chorus, were mostly seamless in their execution. The lighting, by François-Pierre Couture, was mostly effective with the notable exception of the Act II storm scene, during which the “lightning” flashed with such rhythmic regularity that it seemed more suggestive of a dance club than a natural phenomenon. Thankfully, the capable orchestra, made up of participants in the Academy’s instrumental programs, was much more successful in portraying the scene’s tempestuous mood, and conductor Jayce Ogren’s sensitive dynamics and brisk tempos helped to propel the drama unfolding on stage throughout the opera. —Edmond Johnson 

 

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