The Seattle Opera is presenting Rossini’s La Cenerentola in six more performances through January 26. Even though its Italian title translates literally into The Cinderella I’m going to continue to refer to it as La Cenerentola because this is not the Cinderella that American audiences are familiar with. The bones are there; the lonely and put-upon girl in the ashes by the fire, the wicked stepsisters, the prince (eventually) but beyond that my 10-year-old daughter refused to acknowledge that this was the old Cinderella story. She’s right, and in my opinion that’s a good thing.
In this version the wicked stepmother is replaced by a vain and greedy stepfather, the fairy godmother is replaced by a wise old man, there’s no magic or glass slipper, and most importantly the prince trades places with his valet and spends most of the performance as a servant. He wins Cinderella’s heart on merit, which makes her a much more self-reliant, self-assured, and relatable character. My daughter liked her far more than the Cinderella of the movie, “she’s someone I could hang out with.” High praise indeed.
The Seattle Opera is hoping that this production can be an opportunity for kids to get interested in opera and with the little I know about the art form I’m inclined to agree that this is probably the best operatic option for kids. With a couple of strong caveats I would recommend this show for at least ages 8 and up.
First, this show is long. The first act alone is 90 minutes and the total running time including intermission is 3 hours. I have lots of advice about reserving a fortifying cookie in advance at the concession stand in the lower lobby and not drinking too much before going so you don’t have to wait in the long bathroom lines but if you’ve been to the Nutcracker you may already know this. Smaller children who can’t read the translated titles that appear above the stage may get restless during such a long performance.
Which brings me to my second point; it’s really helpful if kids are old enough to read on their own so they can follow the story. Not only will they stay engaged with the action on stage but they will get a lot of the jokes in the libretto. The great value in La Cenerentola as an entry point for kids into opera is that it’s a very funny show, and not in the bawdy sexual way many comic operas are.
The best, and funniest, part of the show for my daughter, and the whole audience judging by the laughter and applause, were the mice. They don’t sing but they are a constant presence on stage dancing, posing, and manipulating the sets in a way that delighted the audience time and time again.
As for the rest of the cast, Brett Polegato as the valet, Dandini, impersonating the prince is particularly entertaining. The wicked step sisters played by Dana Pundt and Sarah Larsen in their gigantic bright pink and yellow wigs have some wonderful vocal comedy as does Patrick Carfizzi as the stepfather Don Magnifico who was actually booed by the audience (good naturedly) during the curtain call in appreciation for his villainous turn.
Opera in general relies on a certain amount of melodrama and La Cenerentola not only plays it for laughs but embraces the broad emotion to good effect. If your kids are interested in the arts and you think they’re ready to give opera a try you should definitely consider La Cenerentola.
If you go:
The Sunday matinee on January 20 is a Family Day performance beginning at 2:00pm
Adults may purchase up to four $15 youth tickets for every full-priced adult ticket.
For information and tickets visit:
January 16, 19, 20, 23, 25, and 26
Note: all shows except January 20 begin at 7:30pm. With a 3 hour run time it’s going to be a late night.