Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - March 7, 2014

Rossini's 'Cinderella' opens March 15

Tri-Valley opera presents classic romantic comedy

The Livermore Valley Opera is presenting Gioachino Rossini's take on a timeless fairy tale, "Cinderella," a romantic comedy to be enjoyed by families and people of all ages, opening at 8 p.m. March 15 at the Bankhead Theater.

This well-known fairy tale appears in many cultures, with between 350 and 1,500 different versions, according to an LVO press release. The earliest may have originated in Egypt and China, yet the most familiar Cinderella tale is the one published by Charles Perrault in "Histiores ou contes du temps passť" in 1697. This version is the one immortalized by Walt Disney, with the fairy godmother, pumpkin carriage and the glass slipper.

Rossini's "Cinderella," which is actually titled "La Cenerentola," is also based on Perrault's rendition. But because Rossini's librettist, Jacopo Ferretti, realized that a fairy tale would be risky for an opera audience, he made several changes, taking out the fairy godmother and the wicked stepmother, and instead creating a wicked stepfather.

Rossini completed this opera in just three weeks, and it is considered to have some of his finest writing for solo voice and ensembles, something that mezzo soprano Shirin Eskandani knows very well.

"The role of Angelina, aka Cinderella, is a role I've always wanted to sing," said Eskandani. "It is unusual for Rossini to write music for a mezzo. I'm excited to have the opportunity to perform his beautiful music."

She has performed in the opera before, but in the role of the evil stepsister.

"This time I have a principal role but also get to be a princess for a night and wear a beautiful gown. What girl has not dreamed of that?" she said.

LVO's artistic and music director Alexander Katsman has his own reasons for being excited about sharing Cinderella with the community.

"I love Rossini, and Cinderella is one of my favorite operas," he said. "It is comedic, really funny at times, and I think that is why it will appeal to so many people, including families."

Joining Eskandani on stage is Pleasanton native, tenor Marco Stefani, as Prince Ramiro; bass-baritone Bojan Knezevic as Don Magnifico, the stepfather; and soprano Emma McNairy as Clorinda, the oldest stepdaughter.

"Stage director Bruce Donnell, a two-time Emmy Award winner with over 20 years as a director with the New York Metropolitan Opera, has very specific ideas for the production," said Katsman. "Working with our cast of talented artists, this excellent director will give the audience a memorable experience."

Special events for the opera week include an Opening Night Gala at Uncle Yu's at the Vineyard for $85; Ice Cream & Opera Sunday matinees; and pre-opera talks held one hour prior to curtain.

Fairytale with a twist

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