Having failed to love the Washington National Opera’s “Cinderella” the first time through, I demonstrated the triumph of hope over experience by hoping to like it more if I sat through it again Friday night.
I returned to hear the second cast, which included the Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught — much feted, much debated last summer after the British critics took on her looks rather than her voice in Glyndebourne’s “Der Rosenkavalier” — who is making her American debut with these three Washington performances.
The other newcomers were David Portillo, as the Prince, and Domingo-Cafritz alumnus Valeriano Lanchas as Cinderella’s pompous and slightly nasty stepfather, Don Magnifico.
Personal taste aside, it’s seldom a bad idea for a critic to see a repeat performance after opening night. On Friday, the jokes landed better and the audience laughed more; the whole thing felt more cohesive, not only in scenes involving the second-cast performers.
A second hearing also gave me a chance to better appreciate the work of Speranza Scappucci, the conductor, who was absolutely consistent between the two performances and who did a fine job keeping the whole thing together.
And the new leads were at least the equals of the first cast, and arguably warmer and livelier. Lanchas is a frequent guest here; his warm, expansive voice filled the role, and his manner was comic without the over-the-top mugging that marked the performance of Paolo Bordogna, who sang it on opening night.
Portillo had a ringing tenor, light and tending toward bleatiness in some of the excursions into the upper register in the earlier part of the evening, but with firm high notes and a pleasant manner.
As for Erraught: She is a tremendously appealing and charismatic singer, with a warm voice and a bright future. On Friday, her second performance in the role here, she got off to a shaky start with a loss of focus and color in some of her passage work. But she never lost the character’s down-to-earth sweetness and rose to some fireworks in the final aria that drew shouts of excitement from the audience.
The rest of the cast performed much as they had done the first night, though Deborah Nansteel, as the silly stepsister Tisbe, appeared to be having even more fun.
Also unchanged were the mice, or rats, that are a key part of Joan Font’s production concept and that mingle with audience members in the lobby before the show. Since there was some debate among commenters after my initial review, I approached one Friday and asked whether she was a rat or a mouse. “Whatever you want us to be,” she said — an apt motto for the field as a whole.
Performances continue through Thursday.