If you think you know the Cinderella story, Gioachino Rossini’s operatic version offers many surprises, in terms of both the plot and of the composer’s delightful score. Librettist Jacopo Ferretti did not fashion a fairytale as such. There’s a tutor disguised as a beggar instead of a fairy godmother – although, the costume designers have some fun by giving him golden wings, and have him kit out Cenerentola for a royal ball in a very fairy godmother-like way. And there is no glass slipper. At its heart, this is a farce of concealed identities where everyone gets their just deserts and the true love prevails.

For this 2009 version of Cesare Lievi’s production, Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča takes on the titular role – whose name is actually Angelina. The first scene opens with her cleaning shoes (perhaps an echo of the fairytale glass slipper), while her two heavily made-up sisters preen themselves on tatty chairs. The room’s shabby grandeur invites mockery, setting the comic tone but, poignantly, Angelina is singing a song to herself about a King choosing a goodly wife. She reprises this in Act II, when it is clear the song is to become her own story.

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The opera is extremely well cast, including supporting roles such as Alessandro Corbelli, perfectly despicable as la Cenerentola’s father. Most memorable of all is Ms. Garanča. She handles her frequent bursts of coloratura brilliantly. Perhaps she has a little too much chutzpah for a lost, exploited orphan, but her spirited performance is a pleasure to watch and hear. Tenor Lawrence Brownlee is excellent alongside her as the Prince and he too makes a very intricate part sound easy – especially in the second act, when he gets time to spread his vocal wings on his own. It’s a shame he’s physically so much shorter than his love interest. But his voice and that of his valet, the bass-baritone Simone Alberghini, with whom the Prince swaps places, blend beautifully. The long Act I quintet “Nel volto estatico” is just one example of both how well Rossini writes for his singers, and how well this cast work together to bring the score to life – even when it ventures near the absurdly difficult style of the patter song. Another is the final scene of the first act, the wonderful ball where Cenerentola causes uproar with a surprise appearance. And who can forget the final wedding scenes, where even the rather worthy forgiveness la Cenerentola gives her family can’t dampen the energy of the famous aria “Non piu mesta”. Through all this, the orchestral balance is well struck by Maurizio Benini, who keeps things lively in the pit despite his assuming style.

There’s a cartoonish exaggeration to all the characters, whose costumes and manners are larger than life. The entwining of everyone in golden thread when it becomes clear in Act II that they’re all caught up in the Prince and his valet’s ruse is one of several clever ideas. An unjust class system is parodied both by the music and the visual setting. It reflects the farcical nature of the plot that the design is absurd yet rooted in reality. It’s not a radical take, but this Cenerentola polishes Rossini’s Cinderella story into a very enjoyable experience. Running to nearly 2 hours 45 minutes (with just the two acts), it’s reasonably lengthy. But there are enough twists and turns in the plot and the score to keep you entertained. Plus, the singing and acting of Ms. Garanča and the rest of the cast remain riveting all the way through.