There are two things that sparkle above the usual bubbly flow of the Cinderella story in the Washington Opera's new production of Rossini's "La Cenerentola." And neither of them is simple innocence.
One is the utter luxury of Gian Carlo Menotti's being able to pare down his elegant dramatic action to the scale of an audience of about 400 in a production to be repeated 13 times.
The other is the way Rossini has populated this almost ultimate of stereotyped tales with credible characters who can also sing.
Menotti saw an opportunity here and he grabbed it. He realized that this opera -- which came directly after "The Barber of Seville" -- was not quite Beaumarchais, but that he had a kindred spirit in what he and Mozart had been working with.
And, in fact, it sets a sort of standard for the Washington Opera's facility with Rossini, being roughly in the range of character interaction that has been perfected in the last two years in the opera's "Barber." It may not be vocal perfection, but that homogeneity makes opera buffa work.
By comparison with the Opera House, in which he staged last year's very fine "La Boheme," Menotti has more sophisticated circumstances, and he seemed to relish that.
It's funny that "Cenerentola," the character who is called Angelina in this so-called drama, seems the straightest of all the characters. But Rossini overcomes that burden with lots of colortura music. Patricia Schuman handled it just fine, but not ostentatiously.
Maybe it's just a curiosity (and I don't believe that for a minute) but "Cenerentola" is one of those operas that have no arias that leap out at you in the way that the "Liebestod" does from "Tristan." In "Cenerentola" you've got seven leads, and they're at their best when they're singing together, especially at the end of each act.
If you singled one singer out, then you'd have to do it for almost all the rest. Just to get off to a fast start, this listener would go straight to the stepsisters, Melanie Helton and Joanna Levy, and the really fine Allen Glassman, who was also one of the best persons in the company's recent "Carmen."
In the title role, Schuman was very good, while not spectacular in the mode of Callas or Horne. But that may be why neither singer, apart from their varying ranges, never took on the part.
"Cenerentola" is simply not responsive to being a personal vehicle in the way that "Lucia" is. The crafty Rossini just doesn't let anyone have the stage long enough to make a splash.
It is an opera that is frolicsome with some heavy sidelights. You are carried away as the Rossini cresendoes rise and fall, one after another.
There is Francois Loup's bravura version of the most important comic figure, Don Magnifico. This is a role in the way of Don Pasquale or Don Bartolo, and he plays it that way.
Gary Bennett was the prince and John Fiortito his tutor, and they are okay but not quite up to the level of the others.
Zack Brown's designs were just about what you would expect, which is to say first- rate.
Finally Cal Stewart Kellogg's conducting was very good. LA CENERENTOLA -- At the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater through January 30.