At three hours and 16 minutes (including one intermission), Lyric Opera‘s Cinderella is a long sit for the kids in princess dresses I spotted there.
I don’t know if they made it past intermission. It’s not Disney, or even Rodgers and Hammerstein.
But for anyone even a little older, this production of Gioacchino Rossini’s 200-year-old take on the well-worn tale is as magical a treat as any fairy godmother might provide.
Although there is no fairy godmother. In Rossini’s adaptation (libretto by Jacopo Ferrretti), her job is handled by a wizard.
There’s no nasty stepmother either—just a blundering and greedy stepfather.
Also—brace yourself—no glass slippers. Cinderella (aka Angelina) wears a pair of sparkling bracelets instead, and hangs out with a pack of adorable rats.
That’s right, rats.
What we get in this very creative production by Spanish director Joan Font (produced at Houston Grand Opera when Lyric general director Anthony Freud was heading things up there) is an intriguing interpretation, and an example of what can happen when all the elements that make up opera come together in near-perfect harmony.
Voices? Yes. All-round, from fetching mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard in the title role to the stalwart Lyric men’s chorus and, especially, to tenor Lawrence Brownlee, who brings the house down as a prince fully in command of his vocal acrobatics.
Acting? Pretty much perfection, with major players like baritones Alessandro Corbelli, as the stepfather, and Vito Priante, as the prince’s valet, looking like they were born to play these hilarious roles. (There’s a running gag between prince and valet that stays funny no matter how many times they milk it.)
Costumes? Witty eye candy by Font’s Spanish designer, Joan Guillén, they manage to confound expectations and yet to be exactly right—like the bustle-from-nowhere that marks the beginning of Angelina’s transformation for the ball. Guillen’s minimalist sets are equally clever.
Choreography? Forget the palace waltz, those rats are an ever-present and ever-entertaining choreographic enhancement, thanks to another Font collaborator from Spain, Xevi Dorca. There’s not a false move by them, nor by anyone else in this altogether intoxicating production.
Music? Andrew Davis conducts the terrific Lyric Opera orchestra in Rossini’s rich and richly humorous score.
Performances continue through October 30.