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Italian Opera returns to The Smith

American Landmark Festivals and Smith Center for the Arts present Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera “La Cenerentola,” an Italian update of the ancient story of “Cinderella.” It will will be staged at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 5 and 6, in the historic Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca St. Directed by Albert Bergeret, this uproarious comedy will be sung in English.Over the centuries, the story of Cinderella and her cruel stepmother and ugly stepsisters has been interpreted in countless ways across different genres. Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” is the most famous operatic version, and it is like no other interpretation. This two-act opera has no fairy godmother, no pumpkin that turns into a carriage, and no glass slipper. However, unlike most operas, it has a happy ending.Rossini comedies stand at the pinnacle of Italian comic opera. They always have a memorable role for the blustering antagonist, a part sung by the lowest male voice with dazzling patter and fast-moving coloratura. In this version of the Cinderella story, this comic role is assigned to her nasty step-father, portrayed by distinguished basso Ryan Allen. Allen received the Syracuse Opera’s “Artist of the Year” award when he débuted there as Sir Tristam in “Martha,” and when he returned the following season in the rarely performed “Zar und Zimmerman.” He sings at the Metropolitan Opera, has toured with the Goldovsky Opera, and has performed opera, operetta and musical comedy throughout the United States.Another outstanding singer whose rise to prominence began with the Syracuse Opera is baritone Jimi James who will be heard in the comic role of Prince Charming’s valet. Anyone who has heard James singing–whether on stilts as Syracuse Opera’s Pappageno, in the show-stopping “Prologo to I pagliacci,” or numerous performances with the Annapolis Opera, Opera Memphis, Mercury Opera, Rochester Philharmonic–has recognized that his is a world-class voice and his comic antics a barrel of fun.Additional performers include mezzo-soprano Laurel Cameron in the title role, German tenor Nils Neubert as the Prince, Geneva baritone Charles King as his tutor, and soprano Natasha Drake and mezzo soprano Julie Diniz as the step-sisters. Area singers will appear as the choruses of courtiers under the direction of Steve Kane. The lead soprano part will be covered by Geneva soprano Angela Calabrese. The production is accompanied by pianist Elizabeth Rodgers.Considered by New York Magazine, “the leading custodian of the Gilbert and Sullivan classics,” Albert Bergeret is founding director of the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players, and is acclaimed as a stage director not only for G&S but also standard operatic repertoire. He delighted an over-flow audience at the Smith Opera House this past spring with perennial G&S favorite “Pirates of Penzance,” and with boundless energy and “near miraculous enthusiasm” (New York Magazine, Peter Davis) has staged and conducted Strauss’s “Fledermaus,” G&S’s “Trial by Jury” and Mozart’s “Impresario” and “Cosi fan tutte” for Smith audiences over the past three summers.James, Cameron, and King thoroughly delighted audiences last summer in Bergeret’s hilarious staging of Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” at The Smith.Rossini composed “La Cenerentola” when he was 25 years old, following the success of “The Barber of Seville” the year before. “La Cenerentola,” which he completed in a period of three weeks, is considered to have some of his finest writing for solo voice and ensembles. The libretto was written by Jacopo Ferretti, based on French writer Charles Perrault’s 1697 story, “Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper.” The opera was first performed in Rome’s Teatro Valle on Jan. 25, 1817.When a Parisian newspaper criticized the libretto for substituting a bracelet for the glass slipper, the leading lady, Gertrude Righetti Giorgi, retorted: “On Roman stages it is not permitted to display the same situations…as…in France. Decency might be offended by displaying a slipper…and it was easy to substitute a bracelet.”Tickets are $25 for general admission, $15 for students and seniors, with students K-12 admitted free of charge. They are available at the Smith Opera box office, by calling 315-781-5483, and online at www.TheSmith.org. Box office hours are Monday-Friday from 9-5.For further information contact American Landmark Festivals at 212-866-2086, 212-749-8047, AmLandmarkFstvls@gmail.com, or visit them at www.AmericanLandrkFestivals.org.The first presentation by American Landmark Festivals in the Smith Opera House was in 1999 and sparked great enthusiasm in pianist/conductor Francis Heilbut, ALF’s founding director, for The Smith’s exceptional acoustics, history, and painstaking restoration. More than a dozen ALF presentations in the theater have followed, including recitals by pianists Simone Dinnerstein, Miho Ebihara, and Roger Steptoe.

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