Critical Edition of Nashville Opera’s ‘Cinderella’ is, Well, Critical

Cinderella Nashville Opera 2013There are so many aspects to a professional opera production, among them the costumes, sets, props, lights, orchestra and, of course, the singers. But it all begins with what’s on the printed page.

The edition of an opera score chosen for a particular presentation colors that production. And for Nashville Opera’s Cinderella (original Italian title La Cenerentola, ossia La bontà in trionfo, which loosely translates as Cinderella, or the Triumph of Goodness), Artistic Director John Hoomes has a back-to-basics approach to Gioachino Rossini’s 1817 comic masterpiece.

“We’re using the Pesaro (the town in Italy where Rossini was born) critical edition, edited by Philip Gossett and Alberto Zedda and their team of musicologists,” Hoomes says, adding that the edition “blew the lid off the Rossini world” when it was released several years ago.

“Prior to this, the editions everyone used for the Rossini comedies were highly edited and re-orchestrated, to make the score sound more romantic and warm. Rossini originally composed for what he could get in the theaters where the shows were done,” he explains. “Apparently there were some great wind and piccolo players in Naples, thus the two wailing piccolos up high in the Act I finales of all three shows he wrote there.

“Rossini used a more open and light voicing of the chords, with wide spacing and transparent almost hollow sounds. The German editors in the mid-1800s re-orchestrated a lot of the wind writing to warm up the chords and make the score sound more romantic and Germanic.”

That’s not the case for this version, which opens Friday in Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Polk Theater with mezzo-soprano Leah Wool in the title role and tenor Javier Abreu as the dashing prince Don Ramiro (both, incidentally, are making their Nashville Opera debuts). “The parts we’re using have been corrected to Rossini’s original orchestration,” says Hoomes, who directs with Dean Williamson conducting the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. “Of special note is that there is no percussion or timpani in Cenerentola. In (other) editions editors added percussion and timpani thinking Rossini forgot something!

“The orchestral parts we are using also have many of Rossini’s original phrasing and articulation marks, which are more ‘period’ and difficult to do. And the vocal parts in this critical edition reflect Rossini’s original cadenzas and ornaments. We are also adding additional ornaments and variations, as the singers in Rossini’s time would have done. And the vocal lines have been corrected to fix all of the pitch, rhythm and text errors propagated in (other) editions.”

In opera and theater it’s often true that what’s fun for artists is fun for audiences. If recent rehearsals are any indication, this atypically happy opera should be a delight at TPAC, according to Hoomes. “We’re having a great deal of fun putting the show together, which is a welcome change over the sometime somber mood a piece like Tosca can toss over the rehearsal hall,” he adds. “I actually am a great Rossini fan; I just don’t have a chance to direct it much. But wow, when a Rossini opera gets up and running, there is really nothing like it. And who am I to second guess Bugs Bunny (who had fun with Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in the classic 1950 Looney Tunes short The Rabbit of Seville)?”

Rossini’s “Cinderella” plays 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Jan. 27 and 7 p.m. Jan. 29 in the Polk Theater at Tennessee Performing Arts Center (505 Deaderick St.). Sung in Italian with projected English translations; running time two hours, 20 minutes (two acts with one 20-minute intermission). Pre-performance “Opera Insights” discussions begin one hour earlier. Hoomes and two singers will take part in “InsideOUT of the Lunch Box: Evolution of the Fairy Tale” at noon Thursday in Polk Theater. That event is free – there will be a boxed lunch served to first 300 people arriving after 11:30 a.m. – but reservations are required by emailing or calling (615) 322-8585. Tickets ($26-$102.50, plus the opera’s Pay-What-You-Can option) for the shows are now available by calling Nashville Opera at (615) 832-5242, the TPAC Box Office at (615) 782-4040, or online at


*Photo of Leah Wool and Javier Abreu by Reed Hummell courtesy Nashville Opera.

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About Evans Donnell

Evans Donnell is the chief theater, film and opera critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He wrote reviews and features about theater, opera and classical music for The Tennessean from 2002 to 2011. He was the theater, film and opera critic for from 2011 to 2012. Donnell has also contributed to The Sondheim Review, Back Stage, The City Paper (Nashville), the Nashville Banner, The (Bowling Green, Ky.) Daily News and several other publications since beginning his professional journalism career in 1985 with The Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat. He was selected as a fellow for the 2004 National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) arts journalism institutes for theater and musical theater at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2006 and classical music and opera at the Columbia University School of Journalism in 2009. He has also been an actor (member of Actors Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA), founding and running AthensSouth Theatre from 1996 to 2001 and appearing in Milos Forman's "The People vs Larry Flynt" among other credits. Donnell is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (