Witty, wonderful, and as utterly charming as a fairy tale opera should be, the Washington National Opera’s 2015 production of Cinderella is a joy and makes for a perfect return to the free event Opera in the Outfield, at Nationals Park, Saturday, Aug. 28. The opera’s sensibilities are as quaint, silly and delightfully romantic as a tiny hat on top of an enormous 18th century ladies’ wig.
This is an ideal opera for the uninitiated, proving that opera can be enthrallingly entertaining. Not just because the Cinderella story is familiar and accessible, but because this particular production tells a clear and compelling story with such a joyous mood and irreverent humor that it seems completely normal that it is sung with classical voices. It’s a gently-offered hand into the world of opera with a voice that says “This is who I am. If you can accept me, there is so much more to know and love!”
At the story’s heart lies the romance between the prince, Don Ramiro (Maxim Mironov), who discovers and falls for the servant girl Angelina (Isabel Leonard). Although there is no fairy godmother or glass slipper, there are matching bangles and the same happy realization that the prince’s instincts are right: he is attracted to the mysterious woman at the ball because she is Angelina.
What works so well here is director Joan Font’s cultivation of a compelling –- and often amusing — romantic tension. He also ensures that his actors are free to give the characters personality, to breathe life into our stock ideas of Cinderella and Prince Charming.
In apt complement to the tone of the romance is the 90-minute production’s approach to comedy, including a troupe of endearing mice who take quiet interest in the goings-on in between comically irreverent hijinks.
The characters are lively, the voices lovely, the spirit fun, and all in flow with Rossini’s melodic and beautifully paced score. If you are ready to tap into something as entertaining as it is authentic, this is a Cinderella for the ages.
Opera in the Outfield is Saturday, Aug. 28, at Nationals Park, 1500 South Capitol St. SE. Gates open at 5 p.m. with pre-opera activities for the family. Cinderella will be broadcast on the high-definition Nats scoreboard at 7 p.m. Free seating is available on the outfield grass and in the stands. Full details, along with pandemic requirements, at www.operaintheoutfield.org.
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