[Teresa Iervolino rehearsing Angelina in Rossini’s “La Cenerentola”, Paris 2017. – Photo Credit: Vincent Pontet, via Ôlyrix]
The Cindernella story isn’t really a go-sto staple for me when it comes to narratives (we will make exceptions for a certain Czech movie). To make me want to seek out a Cinderella opera, it takes a compelling mezzo whose take on the part is more subversive than Disney.
It takes DiDonato’s humble lack of cuteness in the Pelly “Cendrillon” (also: plus Coote plus Podlés), or Ernman’s honest clumisness (or Genaux’s haircut. I am only human.) in “Cenerentola”.
And I think I would add Teresa Iervolino’s take to the list, just based on the still above.
As someone who is privately (or blog-publicly) cheering for Iervolino’s casting gigs, her current “Cenerentola” at the Garnier is another notch on her career path to salute. The show opened on the 10th, and is running throughto mid-July with a half-dozen more performances, in case you are in Paris and have a chance to check out this contralto Angelina.
But even apart from the contralto voice, and the fact that I simply enjoy Iervolino’s singing, this “Cenerentola” is something that stands out to me – just look at the still above, which allows me to pinpoint something that tends to irk me about Cenerentolas, which is their innate “Disneyness”: a capacity to seamlessly blend in at the ball – in the dress, in the setting, perhaps a little overwhelmed, but a princess by (now revealed) nature.
Classic Cinderella takes naturalize class hierarchies this way. And what I love about just this still – I have not and will not have a chance to see the actual show. although I wish I could – is that it shows Cenerentola overwhelmed and out of sorts, definitely out of her comfort zone when it comes to the ball setting.
Angelina is someone who has been mistreated and abused and who has been forced into years of heavy manual labor, and so many Cinderella takes gloss over the fact that this will inscribe into one’s very body. Ierovlino’s Angelina is, right here, underneath that fur and silk, a Cinderella who has been pushed into a very much working-class physical capability, yet denied the agency to harness it. This is someone who clearly has carried water buckets and scrubbed lanudry and lifted heavy brass pots on stoves, and who (again, just in this still pose, and in the overwhelmed – and not in a giggly, happy sense – expression Iervolino gives her here) will still stand out at a princely ball because she has not been taught to dress up prettily and whirl around. And slapping a pretty dress on her cannot change that in an instant. She will have lerned to brace herself, and be strong, and guarded. And her strength – look at how she balances herself on her hands, on the whole of her palms – is something that doesn’t blend into a seamless fairly tale of essentialized royalty that uses beauty, youth, ingenuity, wealth and nobility as exhangeable markers. Her strength is something that calls out class issues in the very imprint they left on her body. This Angelina is not about to faint daintily into someone’s arms because she hasn’t had the privilege to worry about pose beyond survival.
I have no idea how this production is set and whether it uses its chance to address class issues and different sets of conventionalized and marginalized femininities, but damn if it didn’t have an opportunity here.