Arts and Culture

Rossini’s opera 'La Cenerentola' stirs anticipation

Elizabeth Lolarga - Vera Files

MANILA, Philippines - The cast and music directors of La Cenerentola promise not to change a thing that Gioachino Rossini had written in his opera. Well, maybe skip parts or let the voice of the storyteller take over but to change to make it easier for the human voice? No way, if Maestro Darrell Ang can help it.

Even young mezzo soprano Karin Mushegain, playing the title role of oppressed stepsister Angelina (a.k.a. Cenerentola) and who done the part more than 30 times in various opera houses abroad, said, “For the Manila audience, I wouldn't change a thing: the glory of Rossini’s music in all its splendour must be revealed, layer by layer, note by note!”

Written when Rossini was in his mid-20s, La Cenerentola has a million notes and tongue-twisting lyrics. It presents a challenge to any seasoned classical musician, including instrumentalists.

Mushegain said, “My approach is one of delicacy, but yet with much comic drama. Rossini is perhaps one of the hardest operatic composers to conduct. (If it’s) too heavy, it is plodding and out-of-shape; too light, it becomes fluff and nothing more than light opera buffa. The balance must be struck between its inherent dramatic tautness as well as its graceful, almost Mozartian grace and elegance.”

Tanya Corcuera, who plays Thisbe, one of two evil step-sisters of Angelina, said, “I want to tear my hair out with all the notes and words. Tongue-twisters galore! I sometimes wonder if Rossini hated his singers or believed in their skills that much. But the work is fun and funny. I am not drawn to tons of coloratura and ornamentation, but I must admit La Cenerentola is particularly entertaining, witty, amusing, ingenious actually. It makes you realize why Rossini is one of the greats, why his works are still performed today.  I don’t think I will turn out to be a Rossini soprano, but I’m happy to have this chance to do a  light mezzo role well within the soprano range.”

Mushegain recalled, “My first encounter with Rossini’s La Cenerentola was when I was a student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia over ten years ago. I studied sections of the score for a class on music history.  The focus was on the development of opera. This opera plays a significant role in the history of the operatic genre. It contains several important vehicles for the coloratura mezzo-soprano as well as being one of Rossini's best-loved and most important works.”

She described that first encounter as “love at first hearing, as every tune seemed to me to be made of pure gold. It also stunned me that a human voice is capable of such acrobatic feats. Just by listening to what Rossini does with voices is equally astonishing!”

Ang envisioned a “perfection production.” He went to the extent of flying in at his own expense his friend and colleague Alvin Seville to serve as assistant conductor in rehearsals with the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO). Seville is with the Anglo-Chinese Junior College in Singapore.

Joseph Uy of the Cultural Arts Events Organizers that is producing La Cenerentola said before Ang arrived in Manila, the Chinese Singaporean national, who’s the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne music director, texted to say that he would like to immediately rehearse with the MSO on Aug. 2 an hour after landing.


Uy said Ang failed to factor in the Pasay traffic from the airport to Makati, quipping, “He must have thought he was Darna!”

At a press conference at Gerry’s Grill at Glorietta 5, Ayala Center (the mall where the MSO also holds its open rehearsals with the maestro from 6 p.m. onwards almost daily), Ang sounded positive about the future of opera. “It is strong. The interest and passion are there.” Although he noted that opera houses in the United States are in the red, he said, “We all agree opera is still so much fun, and it depends on where you are.”

He continued, “In China there are many opera houses but no season. In Beijing there are not enough tickets to sell for Western operas (to meet the demand). There’s a market. It’s doing well there.”

For opera to have a wider reach, he said music education efforts should show that “this art form is as relevant to Filipinos and Singaporeans as the movies or other modes of entertainment.”

Tenor Arthur Espiritu, who plays Don Ramiro, is convinced that the compelling drama of opera is enough to bring in the crowd “even without the nudity.” He said the Cenerentola cast that also includes baritones Park Byeong In, a Korean national, Noel Azcona and Ronnie Abarquez, soprano Myramae Meneses, the award-winning Aleron All-male Choir, are building “rapport by learning to breathe together.”

Comparing leading an orchestra in symphonic music and leading an operatic production, Ang found the latter more exciting. He said, “Everyone has to be sensitive, has to breathe with the singers and my baton has to sing with the singers. With a symphony it’s more like I’m on auto pilot. In theater anything can happen.”


VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

For tickets, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or the Cultural Arts Events Organizers at 997-9483, 782-7164 or 0920-9540053 or 0918-347-3027.












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