Claire Nowak

‘La Cenderentola’ Fuses Fashion and Fairytale Fantasy

Skylight puts modern flair in Rossini’s comic opera.

By - Sep 17th, 2014 01:21 pm
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Rossini's “La Cenerentola.”

Rossini’s “La Cenerentola.”

Pumpkin carriages and rodent footmen are nowhere to be found in Skylight Music Theatre’s telling of the Brothers Grimm’s Cinderella story. Instead, the musical theatre company will show the classic fairytale through the eyes of composer Gioachino Rossini in “La Cenerentola,” opening Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Skylight makes sure to advertise that Rossini’s comical opera is not related to the animated Disney film. In the 19th century adaptation, Cinderella, also called Angelina (Sishel Claverie), is forced to work as a maid for her stepfather Don Magnifico (Andy Papas) and his obnoxious daughters(Erin Sura and Kristen DiNinno). When Magnifico forbids Angelina from attending the ball for Prince Ramiro (Luke Grooms), the prince’s tutor Alidoro (LaMarcus Miller), acting as the fairy godmother, helps Angelina get to the ball and meet her royal suitor. Rather than a glass slipper, Ramiro must use a bracelet to find his true love after she suddenly leaves the party.

Viswa Subbaraman, Skylight’s artistic director and the music director for the show, says the music’s exciting tone compliments the magical undertones in “La Cenerentola.”

“It’s very frothy and effervescent,” he said. “We’ve been discussing it as every scene feeling like a glass of champagne.”

While the opera is one of the lesser-known adaptations of the tale, audiences will likely recognize Rossini’s work from pop culture references, like the introduction to the “Lone Ranger” radio program and Bugs Bunny cartoons.

“You may not know you know it, but somewhere you’ve heard it,” Subbaraman said.

The “out-of-the-box” rendition relies heavily on its costumes, so Skylight partnered with fashion designer Cesar Galindo to bring the characters’ personalities to life through their attire. A self-taught designer, Galindo has spent the last 22 years creating his personal brand and CZAR, a secondary women’s collection that launched in 2011. His apparel is now sold domestically and internationally.

Since Subbaraman met Galindo nearly five years ago in Houston, the two have planned on joining efforts to produce an opera.

“About a year and a half ago, I was back in Houston at dinner and he was at a different table, and he came up and said, ‘Hey, when are we finally going to do that opera together?’” Subbaraman said. “He brought a really unique vision to the show that has been fascinating to see develop.”

“La Cenerentola” seemed to be the ideal collaboration for Skylight’s opera tradition and Galindo’s aesthetic to depict the show in an original light. Instead of customary ball gowns and suits, Galindo found inspiration from the fashions of Truman Capote’s black-and-white ball at the Plaza in New York in 1966.

“In our minds, the party scene mimics the party scene in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ than perhaps what you would think of in ‘Cinderella,’” Subbaraman said. “In that way, when we do opera here at the Skylight, we look at it from a perspective of ‘what can we bring to it that’s different, that makes it feel refreshing?’”

Sunday’s piano dress rehearsal was the first time the cast performed with the costumes onstage. According to Subbaraman, the costumes influence the way cast members approach their characters while also bringing a sense of elegance and innovation to the production.

“When I see the show as we put it together, it feels very fresh and new, so it’s not the same old take on Cinderella,” he said. “It really does feel like it’s something that was discovered yesterday, and I think that’s a huge testament to performers and to Jill Anna Ponasik, who’s the stage director, and her vision and the way she put it up on stage.”

Skylight’s entire 2014-2015 season features fairytale productions, including “The Wizard of Oz” for the holiday show, the world premier opera “Snow Dragon” based on a sci-fi novel and “Into the Woods,” which combines several folk tales in a single musical. These selections not only make for good storytelling, but they present a healthy challenge to the cast and crew, sticking to the roots of traditional tales but retelling them in unexpected ways.

“This opera was composed in the 1800s, but it’s still relevant,” Subbaraman said. “The story line is still important. We still pay attention to fairy tales, [so we need to focus on] how we can update the show and make it feel like it was composed yesterday.”

Runs Sept. 19 – Oct. 5 at the Cabot Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Center. Tickets range from $17 – $77 and are available online or by calling 414-291-7800.

Alisa Weilerstein Plays Elgar with Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

Award-winning cellist Alisa Weilerstein joins conductor Edo de Waart and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra to perform Edward Elgar’s “Cello Concerto in E minor” at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Composed in the wake of World War I, the contemplative piece lies at the heart of the solo cellist repertoire. The concert also features Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes” from his opera “Peter Grimes” and Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 8, ”whose optimistic tone presents a stark contrast to normally somber compositions of the late 19th century.

11:15 a.m. Sept. 19 and 8 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets range from $21.50 – $81.50 and are available online or by calling 414-291-7605.

Davell Crawford & His New Orleans Creole Jazz Men

Singer and pianist Davell Crawford will channel his Louisiana roots Saturday for his most recent project, “Davell Crawford & His New Orleans Creole Jazz Men.”  Known for his fusion of R&B and jazz, Crawford will play piano with accompaniments from saxophone, banjo, upright bass, clarinet and more. Selections for the performance include popular jazz hits like “Twelfth Street Rag,” “Tailgate Ramble” and “Tiger Rag.”

7:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center. Tickets range from $10 – $40 and are available online.

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