"CINDERELLA," Utah Opera, Capitol Theatre, Saturday, additional performances through March 16, 355-2787

Utah Opera's production of Gioacchino Rossini's "La Cenerentola" ("Cinderella") isn't what you'd expect the classic fairy tale to be. It's much better.

Some familiar things are missing — the evil stepmother, glass slipper and fairy godmother — but plot twists and different characters add depth to the familiar story, making it infinitely more interesting and sophisticated.

"La Cenerentola" is a sumptuous production with simple yet effective sets and lush costumes evocative of the 1920s. This plus strong performances by the whole cast makes the Utah Opera's version of "Cinderella" perfect for the well-seasoned opera fan and novice alike.

Mezzo-soprano Patricia Risely rose to the occasion in her first outing as Angelina (Cinderella). Risely was perfectly suited for the part with her clear voice and calm mannerisms. She not only charmed the prince, but the audience as well.

Tenor Chad Freeburg was equally up to the challenge as Don Ramiro, the prince. Different from the Disney version, here the prince is not just a piece of eye candy. He's searching for a wife on a deeper, more philosophical level. Freeburg captured this maturity with ease. His voice was brilliant and full, and he was well matched with Risely, their voices blending yet never losing body or power.

Throwing a wrench into the story is Dandini, played by baritone Daniel Belcher. As Ramiro's valet, Belcher spends a good part of the opera masquerading as prince. Belcher was fantastic in this role, playing up the stereotypical smooth-talking, vain royal with perfect comedic timing.

Bass-baritone Derrick Parker took over the role of the fairy godmother, playing matchmaker as Aldoro, a philosopher and tutor to the prince. Parker's deep resonating voice added warmth to his benevolent character.

As with all versions of "Cinderella" the stepsisters, played here by Shannon Kessler and Eric Brookhyser, were there for comedic relief. They strutted around like peacocks and bumbled like pros, but they did it with a nice subtlety that enhanced rather than distracted from the rest of the performers.

Steven Condy magnificently rounded out the lead roles as Don Magnifico. His portrayal of the scheming, pompous and somewhat dim-witted stepfather was perfect. And his rapid-fire staccato singing at the opening of the second act was first rate.

"La Cenerentola" is a joy from beginning to end. From the fine conducting of Gerald Steichen and the men from the Utah Opera Chorus to the subtle lighting and well-staged choreography it is a production worth seeing.


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