At first sight, from today’s perspective, Rossini’s comic opera Cinderella, based on a fairy tale format from the end of the 17th century, has nothing new to say to us, with no surprises. But under the direction of Enikő Eszenyi, a completely fresh, modern work has been created, And thanks to the timeless story, combined with the magical atmosphere of the Estates Theatre, the story packs a punch.
We all know the tale: two sisters who want to marry a prince, together with a wicked stepmother, stop kind-hearted Cinderella from enjoying a happy life. Only a miracle allows her to escape from the constant drudgery of cleaning, become the belle of the ball, and attract the attention of the prince. In the opera version, however, the stepmother is replaced by a wicked baron (in this interpretation by an amateur hockey player) and the actual prince with whom Cinderella falls in love originally appears in the role of the prince’s equerry. His servant Dandini now plays the role of the prince, for whose attention vie Cinderella’s sisters, who the false prince – in fact the real prince – detests of course.
Cinderella takes place in a contemporary setting: the sisters, judging by their behaviour and thanks to clever make up, symbolise the limitations of a white trash world. In fact, they are the daughters of a noble family. The prince’s valet wears a leather jacket and underneath it a T-shirt bearing the words “Limo Driver”. The sham prince arrives on the square in a scene like something from a 1960s rock ‘n’ roll party, and he does not take Cinderella to the ball in a carriage pulled by two horses but in a shiny white car. What makes the opera special is the constant action, the dance-like elements and the humorous antics. And the whole effect is made all the more special by elements of pantomime and one comic theatre appearance. None of this is, however, is at the expense of the singing, which clearly maintains the standard of a quality opera performance – why this production can afford to take liberties with both the story and the genre.
The two-act opera is performed in the Italian original, with Czech and English subtitles, accompanied by Choir and Orchestra of the National Theatre.