Attention to clarity and detail without fussiness is a wonderful thing in the presentation of a Rossini comic opera, and Opera Saratoga in upstate New York scored a triumph with their new production of La Cenerentola by assembling a fine all-around team. Starting at the top, the company’s artistic and general manager Lawrence Edelson, just a year into the job, has great credentials as both director and choreographer. The fine Gary Thor Wedow was present to conduct a tight 17-piece ensemble and judge tempi to keep Rossini’s music bubbling while also allowing his singers to negotiate their difficult coloratura without smudging and the entire cast looked relaxed and at home in their parts.

Andrews Owens (Don Ramiro) and Sandra Piques Eddy (Cenerentola) © Gary David Gold
Andrews Owens (Don Ramiro) and Sandra Piques Eddy (Cenerentola)
© Gary David Gold

The simple black and white (striped, mostly) set by Mimi Lien consisting of a pair of staircases and a few chairs, all moveable, placed on a zebra-striped floor was playful and useful – it opened up to represent the Prince’s Palace, but remained cute and modest. The costumes were lavish – Glenn Breed opted for period brocade, richly adorned, but with wonderfully vulgar, color-clashing outfits for the stepsisters. Edelson’s direction was concise and properly silly without moving into slapstick, and his treatment of the 13-voice male chorus, behaving differently for different scenes and singing, at one point, with flowers between their teeth, added to the fun.

Opera Saratoga's <i>La Cenerentola</i> © Gary David Gold
Opera Saratoga's La Cenerentola
© Gary David Gold
The title role was taken over on short notice by one of the company’s apprentice artists, Kate Farrar, with impressive but small roles behind her (Mercédès in Carmen, Mary in Dutchman). Ms Farrar, a tall, attractive woman, looked good whether in rags or evening gown, and her warm, flexible mezzo was both expressive and handsome. A few pitch issues early on were soon forgotten; she had the touching but feisty character down pat and the good-sized voice rang true. Her Prince Ramiro was Andrew Owens, another in the new breed of fearless coloratura tenors with secure, ringing high Cs (and an interpolated D at one point) and a comfortable stage demeanor.

John Brancy’s Dandini was suave, funny and cool, his high-lying baritone also able to negotiate Rossini’s fiorature. Don Magnifico can be a role slightly too broadly performed, but bass-baritone David Kravitz refused: the patter music is silly enough and he handled all of the words and notes with ease. Ryan Kuster’s rich voice gave dignity to Alidoro, the Prince’s tutor who acts as Cinderella’s fairy-godfather. The stepsisters were wonderfully characterized and sung by Ashly Neumann and Vera Savage, two other members of the Young Artist Program.

The Opera Saratoga Orchestra, behind the scenes but at stage level (small speakers faced the singers at the footlights but there was otherwise no amplification in the wonderfully live, 500 seat theater) played with verve and the Men’s Chorus was brilliant. Kirk Severtson’s harpsichord continuo added witty references to Il barbiere di Siviglia and the overture to Guillaume Tell. There were empty seats in the house – the locals clearly do not realize what a gem they have in their midst. Perhaps they will next year – I’ll certainly be there.