Opera: La Cenerentola (Rossini)

A invited me to Glydebourne on Saturday (which just so happens to be a country house near Lewes in East Sussex, that just so also happens to have a large state of the art opera house on its grounds). Naturally the chance to see opera done very well in a smashing location was something I eagerly accepted, so on a warm Saturday afternoon I was on a train to Lewes with A... Wearing a dinner jacket (as this is the expected standard of dress), and helping A with the picnic hamper.

There are a few interesting things that is all part of the opera experience at Glydebourne. First of all, dinner jackets are required attire for men. What women wore seemed to veer from flowing ball gowns in an array of summer colours to something still formal yet more sensible. And secondly there is the dining experience. While there are restaurants there, many people opt to have a picnic on the grounds. So on lush green lawns are people in black tie having salads and cold meats. It is all very civilised, especially as English picnics entail silverware, glassware, fine tablecloths, fresh flowers and candles. Not everyone had tables and chairs however, those slightly younger (and who still had their original knees and hips - such as we) took the picnic rug option.

Oh and as for the opera, well it was fantastic. I had seen Rossini's Cinderella before but found it hard going. Perhaps with the right staging, singers, orchestra and sets anything is possible. The singers were all great actors as well. There was comic timing amongst all the scandal and intrigue that make up the story.

The programme notes point out that Rossini's opera is less a fairy tale and more a social commentary on class. There is no glass slipper, fairy godmother or pumpkin carriage. The story is all about the father who dreams to be in a higher class and sees two of his daughters as the means for this, and the prince who disguises himself to see who the genuine woman is. Understanding the focus of the story helps understand the opera and the detail of this production has gone into the intricacies of all these things. A didn't care for Cinderella's ball gown or wedding dress (which were silver and gold respectively) but I figured a little bit of sparkle didn't hurt anybody… Especially since there was no fairy godmother amongst all the social satire to brighten things up. Actually Cinderella by the end of the story does become a bit of a saint. She doesn't seek revenge on her two sisters and her father but forgives them. There were no scenes of huffiness in a golden gown at all! Well it is opera I suppose. And Rossini wasn't writing about a bitch.

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