Austin Lyric Opera
Cinderella's ready for her close-up
If you don't already think that 2009 is a year of changes, try this on for size: Austin Lyric Opera will have one of its productions on television this week. That's a rather remarkable achievement considering how rare opera on the tube is in the 21st century – so rare that it feels like a relic from the medium's early days, the heyday of Leonard Bernstein and Gian Carlo Menotti. What little opera makes it on air tends to come from companies with major muscle on the order of the Met. Who'd have thought we'd see the day that a local production would grace the airwaves, even if only in Central Texas?
Well, we're seeing it, courtesy of Austin PBS affiliate KLRU and its Emmy-winning series iN coNtext.tv. Producer/director/cinematographer Dutch Rall taped a full performance of the Cinderella that Austin Lyric Opera mounted last November, and he's been sequestered in the editing bay since, slaving away like the fairy tale's put-upon heroine to shape it into a 2½-hour program that will debut on KLRU Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 8pm. A preview DVD reveals that Rall has beautifully captured the vintage Tinseltown glamour of this production, which reset Rossini's original in 1930s Hollywood. The period feel of R. Keith Brumley's sets – the faded vaudeville house in which Angelina (the Cinderella of the story) lives with her father and sisters, the gargantuan soundstage, the studio mogul's office, the commissary – fills the screen, grounding us in that bygone era of the Dream Factory, and Mary Traylor's natty and chic costumes look even snazzier and more stylish up close, where every pinstripe and pleat, every ruffle and sequin, is clear and crisp.
Even if you saw ALO's Cinderella live, the production is worth a look here. Rall's close-ups add another dimension to the delightful performance. Sandra Piques Eddy's Angelina is even more winning; you can see just how lovely she is and how expressive she is with those features, here soft with girlish yearning, there shining with excited delight. The feeling that Michele Angelini's princely Don Ramiro shows for Angelina acquires more depth, and we're able to catch and savor even the smallest comic flourishes that John Boehr employs as the sly chauffeur, Dandini. Rall has built on what made director Garnett Bruce's staging such a joy, giving us even more of it to appreciate. He does ALO proud.
And you know, if you like what you see on the tube, you can enjoy the work of Austin Lyric Opera live when the company presents Verdi's Rigoletto Jan. 31-Feb. 8 in Dell Hall at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside.
Austin Lyric Opera's Cinderella will be shown Tuesday, Jan. 27, 8pm, and Sunday, Feb. 1, 1pm, on KLRU, Channel 18. For more information, visit www.klru.org.