Thursday, September 19, 2019

Cinderella lights up the stage with vocal fireworks

Wallis Giunta as Cinderella. Photo courtesy of Opera Leipzig 
When stage director Lindy Hume last worked at Seattle Opera, her powerful Rigoletto sparked important #MeToo conversations with a story intended to be devoid of hope. Next up, she’s bringing something completely different to McCaw Hall—a sparkling fairy tale that families will fall in love with. 

“When Rossini composed his Cinderella (La Cenerentola), the alternative title was Goodness Triumphant,” Hume said. “Cinderella ends in a blaze of optimism, which is sorely needed in these times. This show is joyful, quirky, and led by a feisty heroine whose defining character is her goodness.”

Hume’s upcoming production stars audience favorite Ginger Costa-Jackson (Carmen in Seattle Opera’s 2019 Carmen) alternating with Canadian mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta (company debut) as the title character. Inspired by the whimsical worlds of Charles Dickens and Tim Burton, Hume sets the familiar classic in and around an emporium filled with multi-level sets, unexpected twists, and Victorian-era costumes, including two jewel-encrusted ball gowns for the heroine. But this fairytale isn’t Disney

“One of my favorite moments in the opera is the pep-talk that Alidoro (the prince’s tutor) gives to Cinderella about allowing her inner beauty to shine; it reminds me of Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way,’ an anthem to the outsider kid,” Hume said. “When Cinderella goes out there and knocks them dead, we are all on her side.”

Photo courtesy of The Royal Swedish Opera.  

There’s no “bibbidi-bobbidi-boo” in Rossini’s masterpiece—instead, what makes this opera enchanting is its ability to speak to human behavior. The prince disguises himself as a servant in order to find a woman who loves him for who he is. Cinderella falls for, and ultimately marries, a man (who turns out to be royalty). But the real moral of the story is that she finds her own happily-ever-after: Cinderella extends goodness, love, and forgiveness to the family who wronged her.

Finally, the bel canto singing is a magic all its own.

“The roles in Cinderella require opera singers at the very top of their game,” said Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean. “Bel canto operas set up the performers as sports stars. There will be moments when, it's almost as if the plot is suspended so the singer can wow you with their voice; bel canto means ‘beautiful singing’ in Italian.”

Wallis Giunta makes her Seattle Opera debut as Cinderella. Photo courtesy of Opera Leipzig

Returning for Cinderella is maestro Gary Thor Wedow, who most recently conducted The Marriage of Figaro (’16), Semele (’15), and Don Giovanni (’14) at Seattle Opera. In the role of the prince, Don Ramiro, are two American tenors: Matthew Grills who returns following his Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville (’17) and Michele Angelini in his company debut. Returning singers include Joo Won Kang as Dandini and Adam Lau as Alidoro. Singers making debuts are Jonathan Michie (Dandini), Peter Kalman (Don Magnifico), Maya Gour (Tisbe), and Miriam Costa-Jackson (Clorinda)—who, following Cinderella, will join her sisters Marina and Ginger Costa-Jackson in a special Three Singing Sisters concert at McCaw Hall on Nov. 2.

“We adults love fairytales just as much as kids—who doesn’t love a story of pure musical effervescence and joy?” said Seattle Opera General Director Christina Scheppelmann. “Come and truly enjoy yourself at the theater, and at the end of the night, go home with a smile"

Seattle Opera will offer a special Family Day presentation of Cinderella at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27; students age 18 and under pay only $20 for almost any seat. Family Days also feature special student-oriented activities during intermission.

"Cinderella," San Diego Opera, 2016 © J. Katarzyna Woronowicz Johnson.
Cinderella plays Oct. 19–Nov. 1, 2019 at McCaw Hall.
Tickets & info: