On our photoshoot for the Fairy Tales season, we stole a few minutes with Canadian mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta, who makes her Opera North and UK debut as Angelina ('Cinderella') in Cinderella in February:
Have you sung the role of Angelina in Rossini’s Cinderella before?
Yes, once — I made my role debut at Oper Leipzig in Germany earlier this year.
Is the role of Angelina a dream role for you?
Yes, it is definitely a dream role, particularly for a singer of my voice type (a coloratura mezzo-soprano). My repertoire is usually young boys i.e. trouser roles (like Cherubino in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro), and often these are supporting roles rather than the lead. So to get to sing the title role, a female role AND get to whip out my coloratura (fancy fast notes) ticks all of my boxes!
Can you describe the music for Rossini’s Cinderella?
The music is incredibly bubbly, and often quite wild and frenetic, but very satisfying because the melodies are so beautiful. Rossini also likes to whip both the singers and the orchestra into something of a frenzy, which I can imagine is very exciting for the audience!
Do you have a favourite moment in the score?
My favourite moment is when Angelina first meets the Prince (disguised as Dandini) in Act I — they have an absolutely beautiful duet ‘Un soave non so che’. This is the major turning point in her life, and the first time she feels anything like love, and it is reciprocated! It really is magic.
What are the key differences between Rossini’s opera and the 'Disney' version of Cinderella?
The biggest difference is that Cinderella has a step-father instead of a step-mother. This changes the dynamic and makes the whole story darker and more dangerous — he is verbally and physically abusive towards her, and she lives in fear of him. However, this makes for a bigger transformation from the darkness to the light, resulting in her extreme joy at the end. It also makes Angelina’s forgiveness of her step-father and step-sisters a much bigger deal!
Also, instead of a fairy godmother, she has the philosopher Alidoro. He imbues her transformation with much more depth and meaning than the traditional ‘Cinderella’ story, and explains to her why she deserves to treated well, and that goodness is rewarded. Alidoro is probably my favourite character.
And more superficially, rather than a glass slipper, Angelina gives the Prince one of her golden bracelets, and he uses this bracelet to trace and identify her.
What are you most looking forward to about starting work on Cinderella here?
It will be exciting to get my make my UK debut!
Why do you think tickets to our Cinderella make a fantastic Christmas present?
The story brings so much joy! There is nothing like Cinderella to renew your faith in humanity.
Is there anything you want for Christmas?
I’m hoping to get over my jet lag — I’ll be flying back to Germany from Canada for Christmas day, and it will be my first Christmas overseas.
To book tickets or to find out more, visit the Cinderella webpage.
Behind the scenes on our Fairy Tales promotional photoshoot. © Opera North.