Memo To: Anthony Tommasini, NYTimes opera critic
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: La Cenerentola
As we were leaving the Met's opening performance of Rossini's La Cenerentola, I asked my wife Patricia what she thought the Times would say about it. "They won't like it," she said. "They hate to see audiences really enjoying themselves, having fun." Sure enough, your Saturday review, "Bartoli Gives a Lesson in Voice Projection," raves about Cecilia's ability to get her smallish voice around the big house. But you sneer from first to last at Cesare Lievi's marvelously inventive production and the inspired sets and costumes of Maurizio Balo. In all my opera-going years, I've never been as entertained and amused by the comic goings-on that breezed around the singers. My wife was right, Tommasini, you are either a grumpy old man or a grumpy young man. When Cecilia as Cinderella climbs above the giant wedding cake, it was obvious to everyone in the house that she was enjoying every wacky moment...
Except for you: "The final scene presents the happy couple as a bride and bridegroom atop a humongous wedding cake. It's an inane idea, and Ms. Bartoli did not look pleased to be climbing up and down the thing." In the tabloid NY Daily News, the headline has it right, "Bartoli Has a Ball in 'Cenerentola,'" by Terry Teachout, and says nothing about a "lesson in projection," which I missed in my first row center box. Teachout saw the "zany" production "laid on with a lavish hand.... The all-male chorus is dressed in bowler hats and black suits; a donkey flies sweetly through the air; the members of the cast hurl spaghetti at one another with John Belushi-like abandon. This was the Met debut of Lieve and Balo, and I hope they come back very, very soon."
Herbert Kupferberg's review in Saturday's NYPost, headlined "Bartoli's 'La Cenerentola' is bella at the ball," was no less admiring: "The enchantment took the form of superb singing by a cast headed by mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli in the title role, and stylish, imaginative staging by a new Italian team of Cesare Lievi, Maurizio Balo and Gigi Saccomandi. The production was a beguiling combination of traditional farce and modern surrealism, with a bowler-hatted male chorus that could have stepped out of a Magritte painting, a huge crane that lifted Cenerentola to the Prince's ball, a closetful of clocks that never struck midnight, and a gigantic wedding cake on which the bride and groom perched happily at the end."
Lighten up, Tony. This ain't Wagner, but comic opera, comedy based on a children's fairy tale, a fantastic production that surely made Rossini smile, if he was watching.