United States Alma Deutscher, Cinderella: Soloists, Refrain and Orchestra of Opera San Jose / Alma Deutscher (conductor). California Theatre, San Jose, 17.11.2022. (HS)
Director – Brad Dalton
Units – Steve C. Kemp
Costumes – Johann E. Stegmeir
Lighting – David Lee Cuthbert
Choreographer – Richard Powers
Cinderella – Natalia Santaliz
Prince – Joey Hammond-Leppek
King – Ben Brady
Griselda – Stacey Tappan
Zibaldona – Julia Dawson
Stepmother – Rena Harms
Fairy – Megan Esther Grey
Minister – Joshua Hughes
Flower Woman / Head Elf – Helen Deutscher
In her seventeen years on this planet, Alma Deutscher has stirred up a lot consideration on the earth of classical music. A toddler prodigy, she has been performing since she was six years outdated – together with her personal concertos for violin and piano – and has performed her compositions with the Vienna Radio Symphony, Strauss Kapelle Vienna and Glenn Gould Competition Orchestra in Toronto. A full-hour documentary on the BBC and a section on ‘60 Minutes’ in the US marveled at her and her work.
Her opera, Cinderella, could be very a lot a musician’s tackle the acquainted story. She is making her worldwide opera-conducting debut in a seven-performance run of the piece at Opera San José, utterly reorchestrated and revised from earlier performances in Israel and Vienna. It’s inconceivable to not be impressed.
Maybe one of the simplest ways to explain this musician is that she completely is aware of how music works, each in her writing and in her capacity to attract what she wants from an orchestra and singers. The outcome was a extremely satisfying three-hour efficiency on the California Theatre in San José. Her music winked knowingly at acquainted opera tropes however by no means overlooked the romantic thread on the story’s coronary heart, expressing it with soothing tunes and easy-on-the-ears harmonies. The solid threw themselves into Deutscher’s distinctive fairy-tale world, and a versatile set design moved issues alongside properly.
The primary iteration of the piece debuted in 2014 with a small orchestra in Israel. Revisions in Vienna in 2016 and once more for the U.S. premiere in San José in 2017 (below the baton of Dame Jane Glover, no much less) led to a brand new orchestration for a bigger orchestra and an added kids’s refrain. This model was to debut in Salzburg final yr, however COVID-19 protocols restricted the size and orchestra dimension. San Jose can thus boast the premiere.
Deutscher’s tackle the story places music at the focus. As an alternative of becoming a shoe, the Prince finds Cinderella as a result of she is the one woman within the kingdom who might presumably know what comes subsequent in a melody she sang to him outdoors the ballroom earlier than her midnight retreat. He’s a poet whose accountability to ascend to the throne frustrates him a lot that he provides his personal pocket book away within the forest to a mysterious outdated lady who seems to be a fairy. She finally ends up giving it to Cinderella, who desires to compose music however is caught copying components for her stepmother’s second-tier opera firm (with, in fact, two evil and clueless stepsisters).
Within the first scene, Cinderella is tired of copying the bass components for the following day’s opera (accented within the orchestral accompaniment). The stepmother and stepsisters bully poor Cinderella, all of the whereas lampooning backstage opera habits on this and each different scene they’re in.
In Act II, confusion over the handwritten invitation to the ball and the king’s medical prescription results in extra musical hijinks when the stepsisters attempt to impress the king by singing the prescription to one among Cinderella’s tunes. Banned from the ball by her stepfamily, who name her a ‘beggar woman’, Cinderella sings a lament. This later turns into the track that intrigues the Prince and ultimately unites them as a pair.
The rating brims with acquainted opera tropes, not simply arias, duets and ensembles however sneaky allusions to iconic composers. References to Wagner inject themselves when the textual content turns to a marriage celebration (Lohengrin) and the appropriation of another person’s track (Die Meistersinger). A pressure from Verdi’s ‘Sempre libera’ interrupts one other scene, and a fanfare dripping with celesta and trumpets finds its means into the second that the Prince finds Cinderella (assume Richard Strauss).
Melodies and harmonies, rooted in Romantic Period magnificence, shrink back from fashionable dissonances. (In interviews Deutscher says she merely writes music she desires to listen to.) The arias struck me as pastiches, finished to not mock however to suit acquainted composers’ types to the second. The stepsisters’ scenes carried the whiff of a Rossini comedy, Cinderella’s entrance track conjured Mozart, and the lovers’ duet introduced Donizetti to thoughts. There’s additionally a complete nationwide anthem for the story’s imaginary nation, which resembles not less than a dozen different European anthems.
One of the best arias, nevertheless, owe a lot to Lieder by Schubert, whose knack for marrying phrases and music was utterly acceptable for the one which units a poem by the Prince to music, and for the lament concerning the beggar woman solid out into the frozen darkish. These tunes return at key factors.
The solid, whose bios are crammed with references to masking huge roles at well-known opera venues, shone too. With a candy lyric-soprano and youthful attraction, Natalia Santaliz made a great match with Deutscher’s musical palette and confirmed us why a shy prince would possibly fall for her. Joey Hammond-Leppek’s polished lyric tenor matched properly together with her voice. Mezzo-soprano Megan Esther Gray (who sang Mrs Lovett in Wolf Entice’s Sweeney Todd final yr) commanded the stage and confirmed each wit and poise because the fairy.
Soprano Rena Harms, who has sung lead roles at English Nationwide Opera, San Francisco Opera and Seattle Opera, spoofed an getting older opera diva royally because the stepmother, blasting out ringing excessive notes alongside the way in which. As her energetic daughters, soprano Stacey Tappan (who had roles within the Metropolitan Opera’s Eurydice and Marnie) teamed with mezzo-soprano Julia Dawson, an everyday at Frankfurt Opera, to inject well-timed bodily and musical humor in addition to strong singing. Additionally of word was Joshua Hughes’s preening King’s Minister, whose fey responses added additional layers of grins in a talking position.
By the way in which, that was Alma’s youthful sister, Helen, singing the roles of Head Elf and Flower Woman for the marriage, displaying a pure, interesting voice and a few performing chops of her personal.
The ingenious manufacturing by Opera San José regulars Brad Dalton and Steve C. Kemp relied on dropped flats, a room on the palace that rolled out easily and a revolving staircase for the ball scene. That did the job with an inexpensive quantity of aptitude. Dalton acquired probably the most out of the latent comedy too.
Above all, this was concerning the fertile thoughts of an immensely proficient younger lady. She grew up in London, home-schooled by mother and father who’re literature and linguistic professors, and now lives in Vienna the place she research music. Her subsequent opera, The Emperor’s New Waltz, debuts in March on the Salzburg State Theatre.