This Autumn, Scottish Opera are reviving the popular comedy, La Cenerentola by Rossini; a darker take on the classic Cinderella story. Performed in Italian, it is emphatically not a fairytale but a fable about the triumph of goodness, as well as being an interesting psychological story. Scottish Opera has a commitment to encourage new and younger audiences, with £10 tickets for anyone under 26. We spoke to Nico Darmanin and Rebecca Bottone who play Prince Ramiro and stepsister Clorinda respectively, to find out a bit more about what will make this opera accessible to contemporary audiences of all ages.
The story is an adaptation of a classic version of Cinderella – what is different about this new version of the tale?
Nico: So, the story we tell in this production dates all the way back to 1817. Rossini and his librettist were inspired by the original Cenerentola, and the libretto was apparently written overnight whilst Rossini was asleep in the same pub. He wanted a real story, staying away from the fairytale as he wanted a real life situation. There is no “glass slipper”, but a bracelet. There are no pumpkins, although we do have a carriage! And the ugly sisters are actually only ugly on the inside exposing the internal rhythms of the characters.
So there isn’t a glass slipper in this story. How do you think that will affect people’s views of it as a central part of the tale?
Nico: Audiences all know about the glass slipper, but in Rossini’s Cinderella its place is taken by a bracelet. The challenge still remains in trying on the item to see if it fits – so that part of the story is still in the opera. It’s the representation of a pair fitting together… Rossini uses the bracelet in representation of a wedding band which actually helps audiences relate to their real life everyday story as much as the fairytale of the prince and princess coming together.
Why do you think it will particularly appeal to contemporary audiences?
Rebecca: The pace of the opera is a real attraction grabber; it’s pretty fast, packed with humour and really keeps you on the edge of your seat. Another reason, I suppose, is the clear difference from the well known Disney fairy tale. The wicked stepmother is the father instead which adds a variation to the story. There isn’t the same element of magic, but I find that an interesting bonus and the fairytale elements still do come across.
Rebecca, you play Clorinda. Tell me about your character. She’s evil rather than ugly – do you think that is a more relevant interpretation of the essence of the story for a modern society?
Rebecca: I think the message of inner beauty is a very important one for an image-obsessed modern society. I am particularly aware of this as a mum myself. Having said that, fables and fairytales have always carried a moral that we teach our children to help them learn values and if we can do that in a fun way then I think it’s fantastic.
Nico, you’ve played Ramiro before. How does performing with Scottish Opera compare to other productions?
Nico: This production is so much fun. My colleagues are fantastic and as an artist one could have not asked for more. The relationships we have created throughout the rehearsal period actually come to fruition on stage and it has elevated the performance to a new level in my opinion. And I must admit, I love my shoes and my dazzling long golden coat!
The opera is performed in Italian, do you think people are more open to seeing performances in other languages, with more subtitled television programmes and films becoming popular? And does a familiar story line help with that?
Rebecca: I think if anyone is nervous about coming to see something in a different language then coming along to this show is perfect, as it’ll set those worries at rest. The story is famous, the comedy is very physical, the surtitles are very clear and music drives the drama forward. A lot of the characters’ emotions are expressed more than once so you don’t have to stare at the translation all the time and miss the fun.
Scottish Opera works hard to encourage young people to attend their shows. What do you think the challenges are for attracting new and younger audiences?
Rebecca: If you look at other forms of modern entertainment, all aspects of opera live and breathe in them. Films tell stories and are heightened by soundtracks (many of which are classical music), TV does the same and you get the X Factor sparkle – just listen to our leading ladies’ incredible coloratura. Theatre is brilliant live storytelling and art is in front of you in set designers’ visions. There is nothing stopping opera taking its rightful place along other forms of entertainment in this modern era. It’s a thrilling job to have and a brilliant way to pass an evening.
What’s your favourite part in the opera and why?
Rebecca: My favourite part of the opera is being teamed up with Máire Flavin without a doubt. She has great energy and we bounce off each other’s characters. She makes it possible to build and refresh what we do in each performance and we have a ridiculous amount of fun because of it.
Nico: Ah, it’s got to be the end of Act One. There is a sudden moment of tension created when my character [Ramiro] hears Cinderella’s voice as if he’s heard it before. He gets ever more curious as to why this sound draws him towards her as, unbeknown to him, he had heard her earlier whilst she was wearing her rags. Now wearing her ball gown, this realisation by both our characters is not only a moment of elevation, but a core part of the piece in my opinion. I adore singing the duet with Victoria Yarovaya as it just feels so natural and organic.
You can find out more about La Cenerentola here.