It would certainly be worth it, because much of the centre of the piece was genuinely touching, thanks to the performances of the mezzos Alix Le Saux (Cendrillon) and Eléonore Pancrazi (Prince Charming), and to the way in which they slowly but surely discovered each other; Shaw’s more-than-suggestion that the Prince is in reality a Princess (or perhaps a serving-girl) was delicately and indeed ultimately movingly sketched in. Their two perfectly matched voices were used with consistent sensitivity. So was that of Caroline Wettergreen’s coloratura Fairy, no flight of vocal fancy too difficult for her to negotiate via her winning combination of clean-edged precision with elegance. At this fifth performance, Cendrillon’s amiably ineffectual father Pandolfe was played by Lionel Lhote in an articulate and endearing assumption that nevertheless pointed up the character’s woeful culpability in failing to stand up for his vulnerable daughter.
Cast from members of the chorus, a clutch of secondary roles—Romanas Kudriašovas’s Master of Ceremonies, Anthony Osborne’s Dean, Michael Wallace’s Prime Minister and Adam Marsden’s King—may have been small but were uniformly perfectly formed, while the wider contingent of the chorus were on focused form throughout.
Massenet’s score requires delicacy of balance and neatness of ensemble and, above all, needs to be kept at all times as light as a feather. The conductor Duncan Ward achieved all of these requirements, savouring with epicurean relish the numerous harmonic and orchestral delights the composer comes up with over the course of the piece. The Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra played as if it was really enjoying its work. george hall
Opera on CD
Il Giustino, Vivaldi Emőke Baráth (Arianna), Verónica Cangemi (Leocasta), Arianna Vendittelli (Amanzio), Rahel Maas (Fortuna), Delphine Galou (Giustino), Silke Gäng (Anastasio), Alessandro Giangrande (Andronico/Polidarte), Emiliano Gonzalez Toro (Vitaliano), Accademia Bizantina, c. Ottavio Dantone. Naïve OP 30571 (three CDs) O
DISC OF THE MONTH
‘Almost a fairy-tale opera’ is how its modern editor Reinhard Strohm describes Il Giustino, first given at the Teatro Capranica in Rome during the Carnival season of 1724. Paradoxically, it includes a number of real-life characters, among them the titular hero, based on Justinus (Giustino), a peasant who rose to become crowned emperor of Byzantium in AD 518. But beyond that there are certainly elements of exotic fantasy in a plot that could be subtitled ‘Andromeda and Perseus meets Othello’—it includes an Iago-like whispering campaign designed to arouse the jealousy of the Emperor Anastasius
(Anastasio), whose enchained wife Ariadne (Arianna) has been rescued from a sea-monster by Giustino, the presumed peasant with whom Anastasio will eventually share his throne. Strohm also describes Giustino as ‘overlong’, an opinion it is hard to counter given a libretto based on a 17th-century Venetian source, prone to discursive wanderings. Nonetheless, there are enough of Vivaldi’s characteristic imaginative touches to retain the interest, among them the mimetic description in the orchestral bass of the heavy toil of the ploughman when we first meet Giustino and the highly unusual psaltery
Opera, December 2018