Assepoester, Amsterdam


In the Netherlands, people celebrate new year by deep frying donuts (pictured) and letting off nuclear-grade fireworks, for at least 72 hours continuously. I found a much more elegant way to celebrate the end of 2019, by attending Dutch National Opera’s Cenerentola/ Cinderella (by Rossini). Or Assepoester in Dutch; confusingly, the character in the opera is named Angelina – her family just call her Cinderella to be extra mean.

It was the most entrancing opera visit I’ve made for a long time. I wonder why this genius work by Rossini isn’t ranked more highly, amongst his work and that of others. (Or perhaps I can guess – it’s, very loosely based on a fairy tale, therefore not worthy of critical attention.) The opera has an intriguing moral dimension, almost Beethoven-like, voiced loftily by Alidoro, a philosopher who replaces the usual fairy godmother. Appropriately in this production (by Laurent Pelly) he was dressed as a conductor, making good use of his baton. And at the end of the opera, Cinderella attempts to forgive everyone – Mozart and Figaro came to mind – in an address which seemed remarkably modern in sentiment.

It’s easy, when enjoying a show hugely, to presume that everyone is bound to agree with you, but I genuinely felt that I was surrounded by people of all ages who were all entranced. When I visit opera abroad I can’t stop myself making comparisons with what it’s like at home. Briefly, for this kind of show in a far side of the stalls seat, the tickets cost exactly what they would at ENO, but Amsterdam's Stopera felt quite a bit more user friendly. I thought the singing was generally a level above what I’ve heard at recent ENO visits. And if this show comes to Covent Garden, they will presumably super-cast it, and the prices will exactly double.

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JUDITH WEIR

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