Review: 'Cinderella'

San Jose Opera hosts N. American debut of child prodigy's new work
In 'Cinderella,' an opera composed by 12-year-old Alma Deutscher, a special melody wins over the Prince.

A sold-out crowd welcomed musical prodigy Alma Deutscher to the California Theatre for the North American premier of Cinderella. A reproduction of the the classic fairy tale—only with a decidedly modern feel and opera-centric twist, Cinderella is the first full-length opera by Alma, a 12-year-old English girl, who previously attracted media attention for her impressive musical talent.

Alma composed her first piano sonata at age 6, her first short opera at age 7, as well as a litany of other mind-bending musical accomplishments before hitting adolescence. Now at the distinguished age of 12, Alma is bringing her talents to Silicon Valley's Opera San Jose.

The show opens on Cinderella in the back of an old opera house. Cinderella lives with her stepmother and stepsisters, who have been running the company since Cindy's dear old dad passed. This Cinderella is a talented composer. However, her bullying stepsisters and stepmother force her to perform the tedious busywork of transcribing the scores of others and do not allow her to write her own music. Across town, the King finds out his health is declining. To ensure his lineage, he cajoles his poet son, The Prince, to host a singing competition to find a mate. Then, through a series of coincidences, schemes and signals of fate, the Prince and Cinderella are brought together at last.

The pacing is sparse but purposeful, the sets are beautifully textured, and the actors hit their marks with lively characterization. Nathan Stark as the King is dramatically goofy, punctuating his regal whimsy with a deep baritone. The Prince (Jonas Hacker) is precocious, with almost twinkling eyes. Cinderella's stepsisters, Griselda and Zibaldona are haughty, condescending and hilarious in their physical comedy. Their voices are like competing songbirds. Cinderella, played by Vanessa Becerra is innocent, youthfully passionate, with a voice as elegant as it is powerful.

Now to the 12-year-old elephant in the room.

Frankly, it's hard to distinguish Alma from her older, more famous composer peers. Her tunes are composed with remarkable scope and vision for anyone of any age, and when her melodies take a minor or augmented turn before soaring into lush, baroque modulations, Alma's one-in-a-million talent is more than recognizable.

Thru Dec 23
California Theatre, San Jose

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