Aotea Centre, Auckland Live, Auckland

30/05/2015 - 07/06/2015

St James Theatre 2, Wellington

09/05/2015 - 16/05/2015

Production Details


Rossini’s dazzling La cenerentola is a fairy-tale with a difference. In this Cinderella story, stepfathers are tyrants, beggar-philosophers replace fairy godmothers, and a silver bangle stands in for that glass slipper. Brilliantly quirky, Rossini’s magically mischievous music tells a very human story of kindness, forgiveness and generosity.

New Zealanders Sarah Castle, Amelia Berry and Rachelle Pike shine in this delicious tale. While Sarah enchants in the virtuosic title role, her magnificently naughty step-sisters run wild. Adding an international flavour, John Tessier steals hearts as our dashing Prince with Marcin Bronikowski as his reliable sidekick Dandini. Andrew Collis tries to spoil everyone’s plans as the evil stepfather, while the divine Ashraf Sewailam leads us towards our happy-ever-after, and the triumph of goodness over evil.

This beloved fairytale-opera comes to life in our most vivacious and effervescent show of the season. Brought together under the supreme direction of Lindy Hume and NZO’s Director of Music Wyn Davies, La cenerentola will be, quite simply, magic.

A New Zealand Opera co-production with Opera Queensland
Accompanied by Orchestra Wellington and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

Featuring the Freemasons NZ OPERA Chorus 
Sung in Italian with English surtitles. 
Duration approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes (including 20 minute interval)

May 9—16
St James Theatre
Saturday 9: 7:30PM 
Tuesday 12: 6:00PM
Thursday 14: 7:30PM
Saturday 16: 7:30PM

Join us for a talk about the history of the opera and enjoy some stories from behind the scenes, plus attempt our snap quiz for your chance to win a mystery prize.

12 May at 5pm, 14 & 16 May at 6.30pm
venue: Hospitality Suite, 1st Floor Gallery, St James Theatre

FREE EVENT. Simply choose one of these performances when booking your tickets. No registration required.


In our fabulous capital city Wellington, enjoy a Pre-Opera Bistro meal with the ever-wonderful Logan Brown Restaurant for $55.00 per person (book now with Logan Brown on 04 801 511404 801 5114).

May 30—June 7
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre
Saturday 30: 7:30PM
Wednesday 3: 7:30PM
Friday 5: 7:30PM
Sunday 7: 2:30PM

Join us for a talk about the history of the opera and enjoy some stories from behind the scenes, plus attempt our snap quiz for your chance to win a mystery prize.

3 & 5 June at 6.30pm, 7 June at 1.30pm
venue: Air New Zealand foyer, Level 5, Aotea Centre

FREE EVENT. Simply choose one of these performances when booking your tickets. No registration required.


In Auckland enjoy a superb two course meal and glass of wine at Hotel DeBrett’s award winning Kitchen Restaurant. Pre-Opera dinner packages are available at $45 per person (book now with Hotel DeBrett on 09 925 900009 925 9000).


Auckland: Aotea Centre
0800 111 9990800 111 999 or 09 970 970009 970 9700
Aotea Centre, 50 Mayoral Dr.
Mon — Fri. 9am — 5.30pm
Sat & Sun. 10am — 4pm
Online Buy Tickets

Wellington: St James Theatre
0800 842 5380800 842 538 or 04 384 384004 384 3840
Michael Fowler Centre Box Office
111 Wakefield Street, Wellington
Mon to Fri: 9am — 5pm
Sat: 10am — 4pm
OnlineBuy Tickets

Creatives Cast and Crew Credits

Theatre , Opera ,


Review by Sharu Delilkan 02nd Jun 2015

If you go to see Gioachino Rosinni’s version of Cinderella aka La cenerentola with an open mind I can guarantee that you are in for a veritable feast that will satisfy all your senses.

But if you’re expecting pumpkins, carriages, rodents, wands, glass slippers and fairy godmothers you are bound to be disappointed. So my advice: leave all your preconceptions behind and prepare yourself for the time of your life. [More]


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Captivating night in theatreland

Review by William Dart 01st Jun 2015

New Zealand Opera’s La Cenerentola is a captivating night in theatreland. Just last week, director Lindy Hume was describing Rossini as a genius who didn’t muck around. Nor has she with her vivid take on his 1817 fairytale.

Dan Potra’s spectacular Don Magnifico Emporium, a fold-out Panavision Curiosity Shoppe, draws gasps from the audience. We had already been taken to a magnificent library and an elegantly sculpted palace garden lay ahead, not to mention foggy London streets populated by cheeky chimney sweeps.

Taiaroa Royal’s hip choreography is a bonus, with an umbrella number that could slip into Singing in the Rain. If that good philosopher Alidoro (compellingly played by Ashraf Sewailam) might be credited with bringing Rossini’s heroine Angelina into the light, then Matthew Marshall’s brilliant lighting makes a theatrical coup of her first transformation. [More]


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Wondrous skill and gorgeous presentation

Review by Penny Dodd 31st May 2015

La Cenerentola, an opera in two acts by Gioachino Rossini, libretto by Jacopo Ferretti, is based on the Perrault version of Cinderella. It is a story of a downtrodden stepdaughter who wins the love of the prince through her innate goodness and decency, and lives happily ever after having forgiven her avaricious and unpleasant family. Details differ – there is no pumpkin or glass slipper – but the essence remains: goodness is rewarded.

The opera was written in 1817 and belongs to the bel canto tradition, showcasing the voice in spectacular style, with the title role being written for coloratura contralto, or mezzo soprano. It was the next opera Rossini wrote after the opera buffa masterpiece The Barber of Seville, and took him three weeks to write. Rossini was an extraordinary character, acclaimed as the greatest composer in his time, famous for his bon vivant lifestyle. After composing an enormous body of work by the age of 35 he gave up composing for the last 39 years of his life. 

This opera makes the most extraordinary vocal demands: the sheer volume of coloratura writing for the title role is staggering, the effervescence and ease of delivery belying the work that goes into the musical preparation. Every note of the fantastically fast runs has to be carefully formed. The voices need to be big enough to carry over the orchestra but light enough to be agile. The vocal fireworks are impressive, and this cast delivers. 

Sarah Castle makes a welcome return home to dazzle us as Angelina, the Cinderella character. She looks and sings the part to perfection, most affecting in her little canzone ‘Una volta c’e un re,and seemingly tireless in the virtuostic final scene and rondo. Her sisters are enthusiastically embraced by Amelia Berry and Rachelle Pike, making the most of every opportunity, vocal and staging.

John Tessier, as a dashing Don Ramiro is a fine exponent of this style, hitting the many top Cs and cascading arpeggios with consummate skill. Marcin Bronikowski, a charming Dandini, possesses a rich baritone voice which cuts through the Aotea acoustic convincingly.

Andrew Collis as Don Magnifico plays the buffo evil stepfather with fine voice and great comic instincts. And the fairy godmother equivalent, Alidoro the prince’s tutor who transforms Angelina from servant to princess, is sung superbly by Ashraf Sewailam, (last seen here as Sparafucile in Rigoletto).

Musical highlights are many, each principal has an aria in which to shine, and shine they do. The Act 2 ensemble ‘Questo e un nodo avviluppato’ is a gem of theatrical comedy writing; it is as much about the sound of the words as their meaning and it is faultlessly delivered. Harpsichord recitatives, accompanied by David Kelly, propel the story in the time honoured ‘number’ opera way.

Special mention must be made of the Freemasons NZ Opera Chorus, in this opera a male chorus, but perhaps resembling the recent Eurovision song contest in the presentation of the ‘ladies’. Their enjoyable engagement, their dancing (credit to Taiaroa Royal), and resemblance to the chorus line from Oliver! adds much to this richly detailed production. 

This staging – a co-production between NZO and Opera Queensland – is exquisite: pure class. It is full of delightful directorial touches from acclaimed director Lindy Hume, her lightness of touch and humour shining through.

Settings (Dan Potra, Production designer) are elegant, fascinatingly detailed and beautiful, from the opening 1850s London styled Old Curiosity Shop to the balcony of Buckingham Palace via the gardens of a recognisable Stately Home.

Costumes are superb, extrovert and extravagant, with suitably highly coloured and over-decorated gowns for the sisters, and the full Princess fairy tale vision in white for Angelina at the end. Lighting effects (Matthew Marshall), such as a storm, with snow machine, shafts of light representing wind driven rain, and gobos on umbrellas were impressive.  

The orchestra, under the energetic baton of Wyn Davies, ducks and dives through exhilarating runs in strings and woodwinds, keeping the tempo bubbling and always supporting the voices. The pit floor is raised so that we can see the musicians, which is admirable but tends to give the brass in particular the acoustic advantage. I am often aware through the evening that this is a 200 year old opera intended to be performed in the opera houses of the day and on the instruments of the day. Here we have modern instruments in a modern hall which remains acoustically troubled despite valiant attempts to right this. It is difficult to hear the voices at the beginning, but this improves as we go along.  

This piece is a vivacious entertainment, there is no great gravitas or message other than a reinforcement of the happy notion that good prevails. It is a piece to be admired, as a feat of wondrous skill and gorgeous presentation taken from the chocolate box of operatic delights. It succeeds admirably as such, with high praise for all involved. 


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Unity of vision and ensemble spirit with the x-factor

Review by Michael Gilchrist 10th May 2015

A good deal has been made in the publicity for La Cenerentola of the serious dimensions of this classic children’s tale – for fear, perhaps, that we might mistake it for a Disney-like excursion into fantasy land. That’s reasonable.

More importantly though, stage director Lyndy Hume has thoroughly grasped the principle that unless the oppositions and contradictions in the structure of the story are properly displayed, the comic release from those tension won’t fire. It’s not so much that the story won’t be worthwhile or engaging – it won’t be funny.  Equally the principle plays back the other way. Setting free the comedy is the best way to sharpen the contradictions, give the story depth and create emotional satisfactions.

A clear eyed focus on this dynamic, from the stage direction and throughout the creative team, is undoubtedly what makes this production such a splendid and inspired success. It has a very sure sense of structural tensions and everything sparks in that setting.

The programme notes contain several essays on the origins of the Cinderella story and indeed it is a version of an apparently universal myth that begins with the first oral cultures. The contemporary popularity of the Brothers Grimm’s tales and others had brought quite an awareness of the power of these stories and there were several attempts to set them to music before Rossini and his librettist Ferretti displaced all competition with their version in 1817.

For Claude Levi-Strauss, “mythical thought always progresses from the awareness of oppositions toward their resolutions … two opposite terms with no intermediary always tend to be replaced by two equivalent terms that admit of a third one as its mediator.”

Cinderella is just such a term. From the opposition between life and death we progress to two terms – earth and sky. Ash and cinders that float upward from hearth fires into heaven mediate between earth and sky. Versions of the myth are gendered both ways. The female figure seems to have been more associated with North America and the ash boy with Europe. Which is why the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins is so cheerful – and why kissing him brings such good luck.

The other oppositions that occupy the earliest myths are still here in Cinderella, too, shedding light on more contemporary dialectics. From the first, we have struggled to reconcile the idea that humans come from one thing – the land – with the knowledge that we come from two, in sexual reproduction.  So, in this story we have the sense of privilege of the landed gentry and a radical under-rating of familial relations, embodied in Cinderella’s aristocratic family going so far as to declare her dead. They have a kind of visceral belief that humans have some inherent, natural quality that should dominate social relations.

On the other hand, the prince (in the role of his own valet) is persuaded to put the highest value on kindness – a virtue which, in this story, remains very close to its origins in the recognition of kinship. The Prince, having fallen for Cinderella, is furious at the attitudes of Cinderella’s family in denying her. She mediates on their behalf because, after all, they are family. But it is never quite clear that her father overcomes his extraordinary reluctance to fulfil her dearest wish – that he acknowledge her as his daughter.  

From the outset it is clear we are in good hands with this Opera New Zealand / Opera Queensland co-production. The opening scene in the Prince’s library establishes the Dickensian setting. An inventive and very assured piece of business, mischievously alluding to Victorian pornography, keeps us amused while the overture is played. Then the set opens up in spectacular fashion and we enter the underworld of the poor and oppressed.

The opening chorus is perfect. The sense that the cast’s comic unconscious has been unleashed, while working within a strong surface structure, is palpable. This is no doubt enhanced by Tairoa Royal’s choreography which has everyone moving together with a kind of anarchic ease, making the rhythms of the music and the words come alive. A baby tossed in the air at regular intervals seems to make the perfect exclamation point over this entirely worthy but somehow completely unpredictable citizenry, seething with tensions and potential, poised between peril and celebration.

The audience hasn’t forgotten the significance of this child when right at the end of the opera, Cinderella, moving regally through the crowd, briefly nurses the lucky infant. The sense that something has been saved from a knife edge is sudden, unexpected. You can’t plan this sort of ironical pay off.

Everything in this production is oriented toward one end: telling a compelling story. Every element makes a memorable contribution and the funnier it is, the better it succeeds. The choreography, as mentioned, is expert. When choreography is as well integrated as this, its value in comic opera can’t be overstated – something perhaps first demonstrated in American director Peter Sellars’ productions of Mozart operas in the 1980s. We could, if anything, have seen more of it. Everything makes better sense once bodies are in motion.

The set design and construction is outstanding.  When Don Magnifico’s Emporium opens up into a little shop of horrors we feel completely immersed in this melodramatic world. The storm scene, tied to a nightmare of Cinderella and her fears of annihilation, is seamless and effective, adding effortless depth to the comedy.  

The cast are consistently exemplary. The two sisters, Clorinda and Thisbe, are played by young local talent Amelia Berry and Rachelle Pike respectively. They threaten to steal the show with superb acting and effortless vocal control. Some of these comic tropes are familiar but these two lift them to a new level with Pike showing a particularly gifted fluency.

As Cinderella’s father, Don Magnifico, Andrew Collis is no less masterful as a totally believable buffoon with a kind of dangerously determined streak running through his alcoholism. Bass Ashraf Sewailam is all class as the philosopher father figure to Cinderella and her prince, his acting sure and his voice smooth and supple.

Marcin Bronikowski, playing the prince Don Ramiro’s valet, again moves beautifully while displaying a stand-out baritone.  Connoisseurs of singing in this register will find the quality of this singer’s tone a rare treat indeed. In the role of Don Ramiro, John Tessier is completely convincing, with a lovely tenor voice that manages the very high notes required in the role with ease.

As Cinderella, Sarah Castle manages this demanding role with wonderful integrity of character in her acting and a very impressive mastery of the incredibly demanding runs and coloratura effects of the part. Earlier in the piece I wonder if she is giving the role sufficient vocal weight but her displays at the climax are dazzling and she maintains a very beautiful tone throughout: expressive, sincere and natural. 

The all-male chorus are, as usual, hugely impressive in both singing and acting. Special mention must be made of the bearded maids and the comic business, which relies on great precision to appear entirely accidental.

Musical director Wyn Davies appears to be in his element and the orchestra performs with a relaxed verve and pleasure in the music and its contrasts that is entirely in keeping with the whole feeling of this extraordinarily unified production. There is a little imbalance, with the orchestra overpowering the singers just a little in the earlier scenes but no doubt this will be fine-tuned as the season progresses. 

Altogether, this is a hugely successful production with a rare unity of vision and ensemble spirit. At times you can’t help feeling that a hit song in the mix would just put the icing on the cake although there are many beautiful tunes. But the creative team are right, I think, to rate the opera so highly. It works so well as a whole; it has a structural dynamism that is superbly brought out here and it is very sure footed in its narrative right through to the end.

This version, though, is something special. It has the x-factor. The show lifts off as a whole: every element and every participant is supporting the others. Don’t miss it. Those on both sides of the Tasman who are wise enough to attend will remember a splendid night out. 


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