REVIEW: NZ Opera La cenerentola (Cinderella) – by a ‘non-opera go-er’!

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REVIEW: NZ Opera La cenerentola (Cinderella) – by a ‘non-opera go-er’!

On Saturday afternoon you would have found this ‘Mom’ out in the sticks wrangling a gaggle of teenagers at their outdoor Paintball extravaganza!

Saturday night you would have then found this same ‘Mom’ making a quick transformation, glam-ming herself up and heading out to the NZ Opera La cenerentola.

NZ Opera La cenerentola

Glam-med up yes!

But honestly…I left the house in bare feet carrying my heels… 😉

Why?  Because I had 9 teenagers in tow, to deposit at dinner and Reading Cinema first, before I even got to the St James Theatre.  So we had a short trek first to get down to Courtney Place.  Loosing my perfect hot roller-ed curls to the Wellington wind on our way.

I didn’t know anyone else going to the Opera and as a Single Parent I was flying solo and totally attempting to rock it by myself (yes girls you can totally do this in Wellington).

The St James Theatre was packed and brimming with excitement for the opening night of Rossini’s vivacious La cenerentola (Cinderella).

NZ Opera's La cenerentola Marcin Bronikowski Amelia Berry Rachelle Pike image credit Neil Mackenzieimages provided – credit Neil Mackenzie

I was warmly welcomed at the top of the stairs and treated to drinks and nibbles as I was being *hosted at the Opera by Spotlight Creative Media. I ended up chatting with the host and some fab ladies from The Wellingtonista before heading in at the sound of the bell.

As the lights lowered for the opening scene of La cenerentola…I chuckled to myself, as to where life takes me sometimes and the extremes of it.

This time last week (7.30pm) we were sitting on the try line at Westpac Stadium Mexican waving and cheering our lungs out watching the Hurricane’s battle it out with the Crusader’s (Wellington Chic – yes I am, but I am still a Crusader’s fan!).

Last week I was wrapped up in my winter woollies, rocking a beanie and eating Hot Chips out of a punnet where the tomato sauce gets on your fingers!

Tonight I was surrounded by Glitz, Glamour, Tuxedo’s, sparkly Evening Dresses, Champagne, Top shelf liquor and OPERA!

I worked out it had been 14 years and then 19 years since I had last been to the Opera

A friend and I had gone to the Opera in Auckland 14 years ago (which I ‘cough-cough’ can’t now remember the name of it) and my parent’s took my to my 1st Opera back in the 90’s to Phantom.

So I’m a total newbie, a novice, I don’t know ‘anything’…all I know is what I like and what I appreciate.

I’m not a traditional Opera reviewer…as you can see.

There are many fabulous reviewers out there and many technical and in-depth reviews listed on NZ Opera’s Facebook page…

So this blog review is just me sharing my experience of going to the opera as a normal ‘non Opera go-er’.

NZ Opera's La cenerentola Rachelle Pike Sarah Castle Amelia Berry image credit Neil Mackenzieimages provided – credit Neil Mackenzie

La cenerentola is sung in Italian, it follows along the story of Cinderella (kind-of), but with some unique twists along the way…

We see a glimpse of the life of Cinderella/Angelina, her two naughty Step Sisters Tisbe and Clorinda, and her nasty Stepfather the Baron Don Magnifico as their lives intertwine with the Prince Don, his sidekick Dandini and Angelina’s ticket out of the life she leads Alidoro.

I much appreciated that it was a story that I was familiar with (albeit different) as I had some anticipation of what was going on or maybe coming up, even if I wasn’t reading the Sub titles.

Is that what you call those things…sub titles…?

They very ‘helpfully’ have a long screen right up the top above the stage and one, off to the left and one, off to right that when read, give you roughly what they are singing about. .

What was amazing was you often didn’t need to read the subtitles.

The emotion, expressions, body language, themes, tone, set and how the scene played out visually almost told the story completely on it’s own.

But they were so helpful to have there when I had no idea what was happening and for picking up the funny lines and quirks.

What captured me instantly was the colours and the luxurious quality of the costumes, set and whole visual affair playing out in front of me.

Now I don’t mean luxurious in terms of expensive, I means in terms of ‘a luxurious lush depth‘ even when the fabric’s were ratty and old (Angelina) they still had a luxurious lush depth and texture to them.

NZ Opera's La cenerentola Sarah Castle John Tessier image credit Neil Mackenzieimages provided – credit Neil Mackenzie

The set’s that came out were truly amazing, Don Manifico’s shop where the Step Sisters and Angelina worked was epic!

It set such the tone for the scenes and there was so much going on in there, but I never felt it extracted from the actual Opera.

I love that they used the height of the stage for the set.  Above the shop was the families house with stairs running up the back and many scenes were directed from the large open house windows, which was just overall visually stunning and just looked seriously cool.

 

So…the Opera singing…was it good…did it give me goose-bumps:?

I know it’s what the cast train for years and years of their lives to do…and NZ Opera’s are regarded as a world-class productions…so I shouldn’t be too surprised…

But I was blown away by nearly each and every one of the cast individually.

I was already in awe of the voices, the notes, the clarity and the power behind the voices…annnnnnnd that it’s ALL sung in Italian!  Just imagine how hard that is to learn!

But then…goodness gracious me what a talent it is when there are 4 or 6 cast on stage singing their own huge song (fast and in Italian) on their own, not getting distracted from the others, but singing it perfectly in sync – but not in sync because their songs are different – if that makes sense.  And pulling it off perfectly.

That was my favourite part and total goose-bump coverage!

So, did I like it?

As I don’t know what is good Opera and what isn’t good Opera, all I can go on is how it makes me feel.

So, do I like it?

Oh my golly-gosh YES!

I didn’t realise that I had been missing out on this for the last 14 years.

The voices that made the hairs on my arms raise and catch my breath!

The notes that made me sit forward in my seat.

I was ENTHRALLED and absolutely captured by the characters and the story line.


What surprised me the most?

I had said to my daughter before I went, that I just hope ‘I don’t get bored’

There was NO trouble with that as I was sucked in hook line and sinker to the story.

Also pleasantly surprised by just how much of it was funny and how they slotted the humour in at intervals perfectly.

There was a well placed very clever line referencing ‘Cloudy Bay’ (wine)…that was by far a huge ‘lol’ moment for the audience!  😉

NZ Opera's La cenerentola Andrew Collis image credit Stephanie Do Rozarioimages provided – credit Stephanie Do Rozario


Who were my favourite Characters?

I didn’t quite realise it was possible to like ALL of the characters on stage.

I even really-really liked the Baron Don Manifico…yes he was a drunk, yes he treated Angelina appallingly…but he was still incredibly likable and a little mischievous.

I liked his bobbly, wobbly nature, his stick on comb-over that was hardly ever combed over and the fact he never had his pants done up!

The Step Sisters Tisbe and Clorinda were A-MAZING and pulled off their Characters to perfection.  Visually their Styling was equally perfection.

 

What caught me off guard?

The tension was building as we are leading to a peak scene before intermission.

Tears sprung from my eyes and rolled down my face.

I am trying to control what my body is doing and stifle the noise only letting it out when I can disguise it between the loud high notes

Trying hard to mask it ever so subtlety so those around me don’t hear.

The crowd erupts into applause and I let it out as much as I can.

As we walked out at intermission I was wiping tears from my eyes I was having trouble capturing a full breath at every intake…I’m sure everyone thought I was very-very moved by the performance

I would have been, as until that point as I was totally loving it…

BUT instead I was suffering the wrath of a poorly crunched Eclipse mint I had popped in 5 mins before, where a shard had caught in the very back of my throat causing me all this anguish!!!!

I had been stifling coughs and gags and was trying to choke away quietly and not disturb those around me!

I was then the one chic at the bar at intermission stuffing my face with potato chips and sculling my L&P trying to dislodge my mint shard.

Oh dear – classy aye!

At least my breath was minty 😉

 

What stood out in La cenerentola than the previous Opera’s I had been to?

What I don’t remember from past Opera’s was just how much is going on, on stage-at once.  That the whole entire scene is fabricated / styled / tweaked to perfection.

That the singing is oh so very important…but so is the costumes…the sets…the lighting and the tone…

In La cenerentola it was an entire package.

I loved the shop set, but the set in the Palace Gardens was my favourite overall, it was incredibly simple but was visually stunning.  It offset the costumes so beautifully.

The acting and expression of the cast are so very important and this portrays more than I ever realised.

The cast did an amazing job with this from the over the top accentuated expressions of the Step Sisters that were close on perfection to the subtle underlying expressions of the Chamber maids (gosh you were so funny ‘curly dark haired maid/dude’!).

NZ Opera's La cenerentola Sarah Castle image credit Neil Mackenzieimages provided – credit Neil Mackenzie

 

Did I cry?

Yup…and not just during the Eclipse Mint incident above.

When the singing was so perfectly synced/but not synced, (that I talked about further above) when there are 4 or 6 cast on stage singing their own song, but with others, but different.  Just stunning!

And a few other times.

 

Did I feel out of place?

I rocked up with faux confidence…and flying solo…and it was quite possibly my age group was in a minority than many other Opera go-er’s.

So it ‘would’ have been very easy to feel ‘out of place’.

Tux’s and evening gowns and very elegantly dressed peeps are the norm (is that just an opening night thing…or every night?).

But it also didn’t seem to matter if you weren’t in formal attire as there were still plenty of people in ‘going out’ clothes and also people of all ages.  Both ends of the scale and everything in between.  Octogenarians and also quite a few Kids :-)

It did encourage me thought to go all out next time and glam it up even more.

As the Opera is maybe not my normal thing…I only slightly felt out of place, but less than I actually thought I would.

I did get some looks up and down (you know the ones), but they kinda didn’t bother me, figured they were either:

  • …looking at me as I was a ‘newbie’ and they hadn’t seen me there before…
    or
  • …the were looking at my totally rocking outfit that I felt amazing in…
    or
  • …maybe I had toilet paper hanging out the back of my skirt, who knows 😉

 

What blew me away?

What was most-most surprising, was just how well received it was.

Yes, I LOVED it, but the appreciation and applause the show and cast received from the audience at the end was truly-truly amazing.

I have been to some great shows in my life, with massive crowds and standing ovations…but this topped all of them.

People were literally on the edge of their seats almost ready to burst with how delighted they were and they were all around me and across the entire crowd.

The very-very well deserved clapping was intense when the cast’s were taking their bow’s and accepting the applause.

I was teared up already through performance, but cried the most actually at this point.

I was awe at the delighted crowd, how appreciative they were for the cast and what they had just seen, it totally got me.

Yup, I’m a weirdo – who cries from seeing people ‘clap’ – yeah that would be me.

NZ Opera's La cenerentola Cinderella

 

Following my glamorous night at the opera, did I head off to an equally glamorous after party or cocktails with the cast…?

I walked out onto Courtenay place amongst excited chatter from those around me and rave reviews of how awesome La cenerentola was.

Then I head straight across the road to Starbucks to a tall Chai Latte and to await the arrival of my 9 energetic Teenagers from their movie (Pitch Perfect 2) to then get them all back to our place.

The week before, I was initially a little disappointed not to be heading to Pitch Perfect 2 with the girls, but La cenerentola was so-so-so much better…and I can movie any old day.

I’m writing this now to the sound of giggling, dancing, Hip Hop and Pop songs floating up the stairs of our Apartment and set myself in for a fun night of hosting this great bunch of girls.

I was an Opera go-er earlier that night…but after all of that when the glam goes back in the wardrobe, you wipe your makeup off and tie your hair up in a ponytail…I will always be a Mom

Digging snack food our of the cupboard for them, laughing at their funny stories and gathering up enough blankets to turn our house into a giant sleepover for the night.

 

Check back tomorrow where I will post my “Top Tips for heading to the Opera as a non-Opera go-er”!

 

The NZ Opera have a stunning 2015 season on, starting with La cenerentola and followed with Madama Butterfly and then Tosca.

La cenerentola is directed by Lindy Hume and was co-produced with Opera Queensland and features Opera stars from New Zealand, Australia and around the world.

Check out their website nzopera.com even if it’s just for the amazing graphics alone that have been created for each opera, the images are stunning!

The NZ Opera also has a great active Facebook page with lots of behind the scenes info and fab interviews and video’s, which is well worth a look to find out stuff you wouldn’t have otherwise known.

You can still catch La cenerentola in Wellington until the final night Saturday 16th May.

It then heads up to Auckland (the same day that Prince Harry leaves New Zealand…Prince Don heads to Auckland and Prince Harry heads home) and runs 30 May til 7 June, Tickets are available through the NZ Opera website.

 

* I was very-very kindly hosted by Spotlight Creative Media to the NZ Opera without obligation…but man…my experience going to La cenerentola was so awesome I just HAD to talk about it and share it with you on my blog.
What I wrote is just what I think!
Thanks for reading :-)

 

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