Another opera, another sniffer dog. But at least the golden retriever in Bill Bankes-Jones's whimsical staging of Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots had the grace to take a bow. Commissioned by the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1767 as the first act of a portmanteau oratorio, and translated as The First Commandment for the Classical Opera Company's performance, Mozart's Singspiel revealed some secular susceptibilities on the part of its 11 year-old composer.
Though the honeyed suspensions for divided violas and lean solo for alto trombone show considerable sophistication, Mozart had yet to learn to disguise his personal predilections. While Forgiveness (Rebecca Ryan) is granted a terrifying aria detailing the punishments awaiting the damned, and Christian Spirit (Robin Tritschler) lyrically wrings his hands over the world's decadence, Justice (Madeleine Pritchard) is presented as a purse-lipped prude in nagging phrases. Not surprisingly, the drowsy Christian (Allan Clayton) whose soul they are trying to save is more impressed by the vigorous seductions and coloratura laughter of Worldly Spirit (Sophie Bevan).
With singing and playing as stylish as that offered by the Classical Opera Company under Ian Page, it seems uncharitable to carp at the production, which was set in a celestial departure lounge, with Christian Spirit, Justice and Forgiveness as psychotic flight attendants. Bevan's energetic routine with tinsel and turkey was brilliantly executed, if conceptually confusing. But A Matter of Life and Death might have been a kinder model for this than The High Life.
Would you take a child to La Cenerentola? I'm not sure I would, but Joan Font's candy-bright production, imported from Barcelona by Welsh National Opera, appears to have been designed for a young audience. Dancing rats and pop-up carriages put the pantomime back into Rossini's opera, though restoring Marianna Pizzolato's Angelina to the drab fireplace of her stepfather's mansion at the end lends pathos. Pizzolato's peach-sweet voice, sympathetic presence and beguiling musicality are the best reasons to catch this charming but unexciting show, provided you can turn a deaf ear to Carlo Rizzi's uncharming conducting.
'La Cenerentola' is at Wales Millennium Centre (0870 040 2000) to 12 Oct
Further reading Andrew Brown's translation of Prosper Mérimée's original 'Carmen' (Hesperus Classics). Go to www.independent .co.uk/arts for more coverageReuse content