Amahl's widowed mother, played by soprano Megan Miceli, was another bright star of this production. Like Pfeifer, Miceli's portrayal was honest and nuanced, her round, vibrant tone filling the performance space with ease.
The main story is about the lost son of a murdered king, fighting against the weak offspring of the usurper for love and his right to the throne, successfully winning both. That's it, literally. And this perfectly illustrates why a lot of similar operas are gathering dust on the shelves of libraries. A pity, since sometimes the musical material is real gold.
Richard A. Raub must be commended for his work with both the cast and the orchestra. While intonation was, at times a noticeable issue, the ensemble gracefully navigated from swelling passage to swelling passage. Raub also maintained an energetic momentum through the work. Raub kept the high level of romanticism without ever losing any precision.
At this point, Alice Coote is virtually synonymous with this production of Cendrillon, having sung the role of Prince Charming in London, Barcelona, and New York in recent seasons. She brings a beautiful, rich tone and an affable touch to Prince Charming's moping. Stagg and Coote's duets are especially rapturous, with their beautifully-matched instruments making Act III's long-anticipated reunion all the more sublime.
We open to a massive set of stairs as wide as the stage. Perched atop is a lone figure in garishly flamboyant toreador garb. This is our narrator and we understand her to be Carmen, or at least, a version of her. She is an omniscient and timeless figure, as if speaking to us from beyond the grave to tell her story.
An audience of kids also tests the temperament of the folks onstage. *WOW Factor* is cast with current and past members of the COC Ensemble Studio, and it was specifically the new members who impressed with their versatility. I had seen bass-baritone Joel Allison in the COC's stark production of Eugene Onegin, and it was a hoot to see him turn a full 180 as the buffo-for-kids Mr. Magnifico.
Ultimately it's the music that resonated the most, while the theatrics — played out in a dichromatic set via mimetic interpretations of the libretto — filled in the gaps that awkward shuffling and transitional applause between segments are otherwise expected.
Hansen is a lover of chamber music, but is less enamoured with the traditional setting of chamber music performances. He writes in his director's notes, "Audiences understand they'll arrive to a venue and see chairs set out awaiting the musicians, organized along very standard and - let's just say it - totally uninspired, predictable placements so that the musicians can see and hear each other."
Rodolfo and Mimì shared what felt like a genuine chemistry. Sung by Welsh soprano Natalya Romaniw making her ENO debut, it was a subtle and heartfelt performance. There was something classic about her sound that I really loved. It was a true triumph. Musetta, sung by ENO Harewood Artist Nadine Benjamin, was unfortunately the weakest character for me.
Soprano Jessie Lyons went hardly unnoticed as Lucia, who spent most of her time on the winding stage, alongside Jonathan Zeng as Charles, whose charisma and stunning tenor voice required the attention of all attending. The audience also couldn't ignore Andrew Groble's thunderous baritone voice that was a delight for the ears, with additional support from Naomi Brigell emotional performance of the slowly deteriorating Genevieve.