Stendhal, in his biography of Rossini, writes that not long after a performance of 'La Cenerentola' begins he starts feeling almost nauseated, and eventually indicates this is due to the opera's 'banality' and 'lack of idealism.' Well, I don't know what Stendhal was talking about. Generations of opera-goers have found it utterly delightful, and anyone who listens to this live performance from the Rossini in Wildbad (Germany) Festival will likely agree. The music is vintage Rossini, written right after 'Barbiere di Siviglia.' The conductor is one of the most respected Rossini scholars around, and he is conducting his own edition of the work. Indeed, Alberto Zedda is the editor of the Rossini Gesamtausgabe (Complete Edition), director of the Pesaro (Italy) Rossini Opera Festival, and has probably conducted more performances of Rossini operas than anyone alive. The Rossini in Wildbad Festival has introduced many young Rossini singers to the world and in this performance we get to hear the cream of the coming crop. The Cenerentola (Joyce Di Donato) is no stranger to the role, having sung it in several other productions (among them La Scala), including one I saw in her hometown, Kansas City; she was simply sensational then as she is in this performance. Di Donato is a comer; among other things she sang Sister Helen Prejean in the première of Jake Heggie's 'Dead Man Walking.' She has a rich, flexible mezzo, is a consummate actor with the voice and has perfect control of Rossini's fioriture.
The other singers in the cast do equally well. José Manuel Zapata is a lyrical and lovable prince, Don Ramiro. He and Di Donato sound marvelous together as the young lovers. Paolo Dordogna scores as Don Ramiro's valet who masquerades as the prince. Don Magnifico, the improverished baron, father of the two sisters Clorinda and Tisbe, is sung with comic relish by Bruno Praticò. He is particularly funny in the drunken scene where he pretends to be Dandini's wine steward. (I am always amused to recall once seeing a wine shop called 'Don Magnifico's.' An inside joke if I ever saw one.) The cast is rounded out by Patrizia Cigna and Martina Borst as Clorinda and Tisbe. And the engine of the plot, the philosopher Alidoro, is sung deliciously by basso Luca Pisaroni. The Prague Chamber Choir is excellent as is the orchestra, the SWR Radio Orchestra Kaiserslauten led by Zedda. This is Rossini as to the manor born.
There have been any number of other recordings of this delightful opera but for a newcomer to the score, this budget release is more than value for cost. There is no libretto included in the booklet, but the Italian libretto is available online at an url supplied by the Naxos website.
An easy recommendation.