It’s not often you find yourself part of an audience so captivated by a production that it raucously applauds an on-stage costume change. Cape Town Opera’s production of Pauline Viardot’s operetta CINDERELLA, in association with AM Productions and directed by Fred Abrahamse, has precisely that effect.
With musical direction by José Dias and a brand-new orchestration by Arthur Feder and Antoni Schonken, CINDERELLA takes us on a fun, flamboyant journey to that fabled ball where Prince Charming will choose his future Princess.
The simple (but mesmerising) mirror-based set conjures up a whimsical French milieu full of fantasy and magic, where the colourfully attired Pictordu family prances around checking their reflections and being horrible to their poor, drab stepsister Cinderella (sung flawlessly by the silver-voiced Brittany Smith). The fairies and Cinderella’s animal friends are played with charming joy and finesse by young dancers from the Waterfront Theatre School and add to the fairytale atmosphere.
Van Wyk Venter’s note-perfect vocal performance as Prince Charming’s valet Barigoule proves him a truly captivating tenor, and Tylor Lamani delivers a warm, pleasant Prince Charming. Alida Scheepers almost steals the show with her appearance as La Fée, Cinderella’s fairy godmother.
Asisipho Petu and Janelle Visagie have a grand old time playing Cinderella’s stepsisters, and their duets are a highlightof the show. Luvo Rasemeni’s Baron de Pictordu also cuts a delightfully bumbling figure who immediately becomes a crowd favourite. One minor criticism to note here is that the production seems to reign its performers in where they should have been encouraged to follow their comedic instincts and pursue some of the clear opportunities for pantomime-inspired hijinks more enthusiastically.
Despite the show’s somewhat reserved moments, Viardot’s melodic, nostalgic music is expertly performed, and the audience is treated to a magical jaunt to a different world—‘a ball is a dream, after all’, as Barigoule reminds us.
At just over 90 minutes long (including a 30-minute interval), this would be the ideal show to take future opera-lovers to for a casually enthralling introduction to that world, as the production’s geared towards families and the world-class chamber orchestra’s visible to any curious young musicians.
CINDERELLA can be seen at the Artscape Opera House until the 8th of July 2023. Evening performances are on 4, 6, 7, and 8 July at 19:00, and matinees are on 5, 6, and 8 July at 14:00. Tickets range from R180 to R400 and are available through Computicket or by calling 021 421 7695.