When I was offered to direct and stage the project Canto per la Valnerina/Song for the Valnerina and Opera Partecipata: La Cenerentola per tutti /Participatory Opera: The Cenerentola for everyone, I accepted enthusiastically.
I immediately liked two concepts: "Participatory Opera" and "for everyone". I have always believed in Opera as a collective rite and open to anyone. And I consider it a privilege to work with people of a territory that is still deeply distressed.
I had been given very precise obligations: the show would be represented in non-conventional theater venues; the Opera would have been an elaboration of the original, with many cuts, for piano and wind ensemble; the presence of a mixed choir of male and female voices (Rossini requires only male ones); the elimination of the character Alidoro (almost a deus ex machina in the Opera); the participation of a choir of children which is not present at all in Rossini.
Important and not simple constraints.
And naturally I started from these to decide how to narrate our Cenerentola.
The central node was how to justify the presence of children.
Having eliminated without a doubt the possibility to make them Disney style mice,
or set the action - maybe- in a school where Cinderella is a caretaker, I thought of starting from the end, a fable concluded with Cinderella and the Prince married. From the classic "and lived happily ever after…".
The children, then, are Cinderella and Don Ramiro’s children.
From here everything unwinds. We are all at a family feast, for a Wedding anniversary (how long have they been married? It does not matter. Even the continuation of fables has no time), the choir are the friends, the stepsisters, the aunts, Don Magnifico, the grandfather Dandini, the family friend that is actually like an uncle.
The kids want the parents to tell them how they met once again. And from here the Opera which tells the story of that encounter, falling in love, starts. That love at first sight between Cinderella and Don Ramiro is now a conscious and lasting love. All those present know the history and relive it, actors and spectators simultaneously. There is no behind the scenes where to hide when you are not on stage. The clothes are today’s, with an element of "historical" that brings the characters in the past to "Once upon a time there was ...".
And the children intervene when something goes wrong, taking on the role of Alidoro, and gathering around mum and dad.
They are the "wreath", the ring which surrounds Cinderella and Ramiro.
Sincere thanks to Maestro Mariachiara Grilli, all the interpreters, the adult and children choirs, the musicians, the costume designer Clelia De Angelis, Irene Lepore, all the Teatro Lirico Sperimentale, for having adhered to this unusual way to represent La Cenerentola with generosity.
The ambition and hope would entertain even Rossini.
May his legendary irony help us…
My version of the Rossini opera is undeniably linked, yes to production needs, but also to the imprint of the whole project Canto per la Valnerina - Opera partecipata. The distinctly social character of the latter makes the term reduction - commonly used for musical adaptations that employ fewer people compared to the original composition - risks being inappropriate in this case. The need to cut a significant part of the Opera has made me keep only what has a structural, dramaturgic value, keeping what is musically distinctive of each character.
Alidoro, teacher and counselor of the court in the Rossini original, is missing here and replaced in the "functional" sense by the choir of children; all other characters remain: Cinderella and her step sisters Clorinda and Tisbe, Don Magnifico - their father and Cinderella’s step father- Prince Ramiro and his valet Dandini. The binding agent between the different musical moments are often the voices themselves, that make up for the lack of the greater and more detailed structural articulation of the original, by "passing" the same sound, whereby the closure note of a character’s sentence, becomes the entrance note for who follows him.
In the economy of the new structure such "steps" become essential, not only between voice entries, but also between voices and instruments. In place of the orchestra: the band which is entrusted with the Overture, the piano/harpsichord and the wind quintet. The interventions selected for the latter correspond to parts in which the same Rossini himself, in his orchestration, gives greater emphasis to the wind instrument section. In addition to being in support of the choir and ensembles, the Quintet - in contrast with the moments of greatest lyricism where the piano is alone conversing with the soloists and accompanying them – highlights the two different interpretations of the idea of nobility that Rossini offers us in his score: on one hand, Ramiro’s real, noble feelings and, on the other hand, Don Magnifico’s servile, prissy ways and, what we could define as " hoped for nobility ". The Choir, here mixed, in Rossini with men only, intervenes in the most significant moments of the story, among which the arrival of the Prince and the revelation of Cinderella. An adaptation where music becomes the "territory" of different forces of convergence, carried out in the perspective of ensuring that all persons involved will feel truly a part of a show and at the same time feel united to create something beautiful and regard it as an instrument of rebirth of their territory. I thank the Teatro Lirico Sperimentale for having invited me to take part in the project, the Director Andrea Stanisci for having offered us a modern and current key to the reading, and all the singers and instrumentalists who participated. Enjoy the music!
To accompany a group of children to the discovery of the theater, and in particular of Opera, is at the same time a challenge and a privilege. From the teachers’ point of view, what makes this experience even more exciting is that challenge and privilege are in reality the two faces of the same coin, rather, we could say that both aspects are even molten on the same face, as many music teachers who plant the first seed of beauty and curiosity in the hearts and minds of hundreds of children and young people are represented here. In an era where the possibilities offered by the network to capture attention in a few minutes with a couple of clicks, and collect thousands of often sterile "likes" for the more or less artistic forms with immediate production, dissemination and exploitation, it has become a greater educational challenge to make children understand and sometimes have to justify the complicated, laborious and lengthy process (…very long, if compared to the fast pace of the network) in which a theatrical work comes to life. Furthermore, it is in the interaction between different roles, and different professional figures that the work takes shape; every minute of the performance conceals within it, the individual talents of dozens of people, sometimes hundreds, adults and children, along with their ability to work on a team.
For the same reasons, working with children on such a challenging project is a great privilege: participation in the Piccolo Coro della Valnerina is absolutely optional for kids, it does not call for auditions and is not linked in any way to school or parochial activities. Despite this, being normal for those who approach this world for the first time, few had the initial perception of the great amount of work involved for the preparation of Cenerentola. To count as many as twenty-four children coming from the two groups of Cascia and Vallo di Nera (rehearsal venue for the Piccolo Coro) is already an important aim. The privilege for we teachers is constituted by the possibility to accompany them to their debut, in allowing us to share our passion with them, in managing to communicate with them on their level which is in no way inferior to that of an adult but is simply "theirs", in giving us the possibility to make them express themselves in contexts where perhaps they would never have thought possible.
The Teatro Lirico Sperimentale in Spoleto, with its constant commitment to the musical formation at every level, never forgets that the future of the theater and in particular of Opera lies in the institutions’ ability to involve young people and insert them within the creative process at first hand, thus creating future listeners/spectators who are aware, motivated and proud of the musical tradition of Italian opera and of the art of music in general; an objective which also aims at the discovery and consciousness of one’s own musical talent, as witnessed by the enthusiasm of these children. The hope is that the small seed planted in these last few difficult months of rehearsals and in the upcoming performances can flourish, and be nourished through future musical experiences by involving and raising awareness in the different communities where they belong.
Mauro Presazzi, Sara Cresta, Lucia Sorci