* Notes *
Alma Deutscher's Cinderella (Act IV pictured, photograph by David Allen) returned to Opera San José last weekend with the seventeen-year-old composer in the pit in her international conducting debut. I brought my Kindergartner to the delightful Sunday matinée as her very first opera.
Ms. Deutscher finished this opera when she was only ten years old, and it premiered here at Opera San José five years ago to great acclaim. The music is neo-Romantic and very pretty, Maestra Deutscher conducted well, she kept things moving and it all sounded clear and synchronized. At 2 hours and 45 minutes (with an intermission), it did feel a bit longer, but perhaps I was on edge as my five-year-old is not as good as sitting still as my eight-year-old was at her age. The overture definitely made me think of Wagner, and there were interpolations of Meistersinger into this piece, as there is a singing competition at the Prince's ball. There were also entertaining bits of Verdi's La Traviata and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte that probably flew over my child's head, but I laughed heartily.
This version of the Cinderella story has the main character and her step-family in an opera house, Cinderella is a burgeoning composer, the step-sisters are singers. The Prince is an aspiring poet but his father wants him to marry and take over the throne, so they throw a masked ball with a singing competition so he can chose a bride. The fairy godmother is disguised as a poor old woman in the woods, and instead of mice and birds, this opera has an elven children's chorus.
Director Brad Dalton's production is sumptuous, a dream come to life. The set, by scenic designer Steven C. Kemp, has lots of layers and the scenes are easily changed. Only the switch from palace back to woods and opera house (between Acts III and IV) had a big pause, and Deutscher talked us through it, which was a good way to set up the scene without losing momentum.
The singing was all very light and sparkling. Soprano Stacey Tappan and mezzo-soprano Julia Dawson were very funny as the step-sisters Grizelda and Zibaldona, and soprano Rena Harms was cartoonishly evil as the step-mother. It was very charming. I was happy to hear Harms again, her Merola performance as Donna Elvira back 2008 has really stayed with me.
The Prince and Cinderella (pictured in Act III, photograph by David Allen) made for an adorable couple. Tenor Joey Hammond-Leppek has a sweet reediness and soprano Natalia Santaliz is a bell-like songbird.
The cast was rounded off by bass-baritone Joshua Hughes as the Minister, contralto Megan Esther Grey as the Fairy, and bass-baritone Ben Brady as the King. They all are fine actors and good enunciators, which was great for my pre-literate daughter. I am very curious to hear Grey again, the depths of her voice are quite appealing.
I think I must have been utterly discombobulated by the logistics of my trip to San José, as I mistakenly sat on the wrong side of the house in Row F Seat 4 instead of Seat 3. It was pretty embarrassing, and I sincerely apologize to the people whose seats we took for Acts I and II.
There were some cell phone rings noted and some snoring, so again, we seem to be coming out of pandemic times to something more normal.
The audience was full of energy and joy for the performance, and I was glad that my daughter was able to be part of such an engaged group of people. She seemed to like the performance a lot, and enjoyed having time with me without her sibling. She also loved dressing up for the occasion, and was only too glad to make use of the selfie station at the entrance to the theater. She insisted that I switch out my fascinator for a crown.