It’s a bitch having two ugly, spiteful step-sisters not to mention a drunkard as a step-dad, but Ginger Costa-Jackson is so good-hearted that she forgives them. Is there a more iconic rags-to-riches tale than Cinderella, the poor, abused servant girl who marries the prince? Countless variations, some grim, some fanciful, none quite as joyful as this.
Rossini’s opera, La Cenerentola, presented at McCaw Hall this month as Cinderella, is the well-known tale of the lowly housemaid Angelina (nicknamed Aschenputtel–Ashes-Girl–in the Brothers Grimm version, Cendrillon in the original French story) relegated to the dirty, dusty fireplace by those wicked siblings. Disney added a royal coach (improvised from a pumpkin), a glass slipper, and a Fairy Godmother; plus the refrain “Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo!” Says Rossini, who was just 25 when he wrote his opera a century ago, “Um, no.”
When Seattle Opera last presented this work, seven years ago, the stars of the production were half a dozen “rats” (well, dancers in cute rat costumes). This time around, it’s Ms. Costa Jackson, our delightful, sexy Carmen back in June. Here, she’s playing off her real-life sister Miriam (as Clorinda, one of the wicked step-sisters). Gary Thor Wedow is the conductor of this production, handsomely designed by Dan Potra and cleverly staged by Lindy Hume.
The setting is Victorian England, with ruffled petticoats for the ladies and frayed waistcoats for the gents. Disney’s wicked stepmother is a vain, besotted stepfather in the opera.
The story still involves a handsome prince looking for a bride, but it must be an awfully small kingdom since his only two choices appear to be the two wicked stepsisters. Fortunately, it turns out the ragged, filthy servant girl is a third sister. With a little help, she cleans up nice, dons a silken ballgown and wins Prince Charming’s hand.
When all is said and done, Cinderella takes revenge on her step-father and step-sisters: she forgives their transgressions. And she’s relieved she won’t have to go back to the sad and lonely misery of tending the fireplace. “Non più mesta,” she sings at the opera’s curtain. Translation: “No more housework!” All good.
There’s a third Costa-Jackson sister, Marina (who sang Fiordiligi here two years ago in Cosi Fan Tutte with Ginger as Dorabella); she’s just wrapping up a critically acclaimed run as Mimi in LA Opera’s La Bohème. All three will unite early next month in Seattle for a one-night-only “Three Singing Sisters” concert that’s not to be missed.
Photo credit: Sunny Martini