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Cinderella Review – Entertaining If Odd Spin On Rossini’s Opera

Everyone knows the story of Cinderella – and where English Touring Opera’s new production is concerned that’s a good job. Directed by Jenny Ogilvie and designed by Basia Bińkowska, the staging takes Rossini’s 1817 opera and wrangles it into an unlikely Night at the Museum scenario dreamed up by soon-to-be-ex-employee Alidoro, Rossini’s fairy godfather figure. “Sorry you’re leaving,” says the banner stuck across his office door at the beginning of the overture – although if he was your colleague you probably wouldn’t be, as his relationship with the items on display is already unusual and about to get stranger.

Characters emerge from exhibition cases or are wheeled in and out on gurneys and in packing crates, dressed in beige Lycra, like costume display mannequins come to life. Everyone is back in their box by the end except Cinderella, who is able to stride free in a trouser suit and glittery trainers. (Rossini’s opera dispenses with the glass slipper in favour of matching bracelets, and gives its heroine a bit more agency in the process.)

Ogilvie’s concept feels odd, and though it settles down it is never entirely clear why it has been grafted on to the story. Still, on a moment-by-moment basis her direction keeps things entertaining. As does Christopher Cowell’s gleefully irreverent new English version of the text.

Arshak Kuzikyan as Don Magnifico and Esme Bronwen-Smith as Cinderella. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The GuardianEdmund Danon steals most of his scenes as Dandini, the valet who swaps places with his master the prince and provides most of the comedy. Esme Bronwen-Smith does less with her words but her dark bronze mezzo-soprano lends depth to Cinderella. Edward Hawkins does what he can with weird, nerdy Alidoro, and Arshak Kuzikyan makes us laugh at Don Magnifico’s pomposity even if his bass doesn’t boom ideally across the pit. Nazan Fikret and Lauren Young make a notably fine double act as his grabby daughters.

Prince Ramiro is sung by Joseph Doody in a megawatt tenor with all the high notes, but he has little chance to charm us with them – there’s no time. Naomi Woo’s conducting drives all but the gentlest numbers so relentlessly that the singers have barely a chance to breathe. Usually it’s a compliment to say that a performance flies by; here, it sometimes feels like we’re on fast forward.

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