Rossini’s Cinderella (Opera) at the Kennedy Center

Let me begin this blog with how much I love the Kennedy Center. Washington, DC has a vast amount of fabulous sites and one of my top 3 must be the Kennedy Center in Foggy Bottom. I have taken two tours of the venue and have seen countless shows in its halls, and every time is so enjoyable. If you visit the nation’s capital, one of your must-sees has to be the Kennedy Center, especially if you can watch a show (but the tours are just good enough).

Now, on to the actual premise of this blog: my first opera. I will start off with being honest and say that I’ve never seen a live opera prior to this one. A few times I have caught bits and snippets of operas playing on PBS from the Met, but nothing with live singing. It’s not to say, I’ve never seen a musical, but an opera is WAY different. A family member was in town and she had been to the Kennedy Center but never to a show. So when I saw that there would be an appropriate, classic show at the venue, I thought “why not?” We got stellar tickets, Orchestra level P (I didn’t need my binoculars!) and sat amongst a crowd of individuals who clearly frequent the Kennedy Center often.

Rossini’s “Cinderella” is a classic opera sung in Italian in its entirety. I feel like such a novice in saying this, but they had translation subtitles projected at the top of the stage so the audience knew what the singers were saying. The storyline was not like the current rendition of Disney’s “Cinderella.” There are two wicked stepsisters, but a stepfather (and one never really knows what happens to Cinderella’s parents). There’s a prince, but there’s also no fairy Godmother, but a tutor of the Prince. Obviously, the storyline deviates from the modern telling of Cinderella, yet it didn’t detract from the opera at all; in fact, I think it made me focus on it more because I wasn’t too sure what would happen next.

Seeing how this was my first opera, I cannot attest to the caliber of singers, whether they hit their notes, or just did a decent job. I can say that even back in the day that Rossini had a sense of humor and the stepfather, Don Magnifico, was hillarious and the Prince’s valet, Dandino, was awesome. In my very humble opinion, one of the best voices though in the cast was Alidoro, the Prince’s tutor who played Cinderella’s pseudo-Godfather-like character. Probably my most favorite aspect of the singing was the chorus. I know that’s really not very original, but whenever the all-male choir was on stage, their harmony and the ability to hear all sections of the chorus (tenor, baritone, bass) was terrific. They really nailed each and every piece that they contributed to, and even drowned out the main characters in some aspects.

For how much I liked the above characters and singing, there were aspects that I didn’t particularly enjoy. Unfortunately, the most annoying and in my opinion, worst singer had to be Cinderella herself. I HATE to say this, but the singer who portrayed her was just mediocre, in voice, gestures, and generally. I felt like sometimes she was unsure of the next step or where her placement was on stage. Moreover, she was the signature character, her presence should have overcome all other characters, yet she was drowned out by all others by their presence. Additionally, I will have to say that the costumes were sub-par. The headpieces on the actors were great and colorful. But, the costumes looked like they were cut out from a circus tent (stepsisters) and sewed that very night. Cinderella’s ball gown was a good six inches too short and it was white, but that’s it. You expect her to the bell of the ball with glitter and sequins shining brightly. Nope, not the case. This was a huge disappointment.

I guess, all in all, I had a mediocre experience at the opera and was glad we didn’t pay full price for our tickets. Would I go back? Only to see a classical Opera with well-trained singers. Otherwise, I probably will stick with ballets at the Kennedy Center.

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