“The troupe’s theatrical ingenuity serves a splendid cast headed by . . . Isabel Leonard and American tenor Lawrence Brownlee . . . Forget Disney, forget Rodgers and Hammerstein. In this sly new take on the familiar fairy tale, everything we see on stage is Cinderella’s fantasy. Abused by her venal stepfather and mean stepsisters, our heroine, Angelina (Leonard), dreams of being whisked away from her shabby life of domestic servitude . . .
With Leonard and Brownlee, two of today’s finest young Rossini singers, as the scullery-maid-turned-royal-bride and the prince who instantly adores her, the show’s visual delights found their ideal vocal complement.
Leonard, so appealing as Rosina in Lyric’s 2013-14 Rossini “Barber of Seville,” was even more appealing as Angelina . . . [She] has the vocal and physical beauty, the natural stage charisma, the sure dramatic instincts, to win all hearts from the outset. She also commands the coloratura agility, flexibility and precision to satisfy the role’s stiff technical demands and graceful bel canto lines.
Rossini does his rags-to-riches heroine no favors by placing her florid showpiece, “Non piu mesta,” at the end of a long, vocally taxing opera. But Leonard sailed through the tricky roulades, runs and other embellishments with grace and aplomb, making Angelina’s joy at being united with her prince palpable in every ornate flourish.”
John von Rhein – Chicago Tribune
“A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago . . . together with Cenerentola as a pair, Mr. Brownlee and Ms. Leonard present a bel canto feast for the audience . . . Leonard’s response in their duet beginning “Un soave non so che” [“A sweet something”] is equally effective in presenting an expressive filigree. Both singers use touching ornamentation in their duet, “Una grazia, un certo incanto” [“a grace, a certain enchantment”], such that the listener is assured that love has indeed been kindled. As the step-sisters summon Cenerentola, the newly declared pair bids farewell, yet Leonard’s dramatic delivery on “Questo cor più mio non è” [“This heart is mine no longer”] seals the emotional bond . . .
After Leonard’s sincere appeal, expressed with effective runs in the vocal line, she is left here to find solace with her true companions, the rats . . . In reaction to these attentions, Leonard’s solo “Sprezzo quei don” [“I scorn those gifts”] with a rising line spurs hope in Ramiro’s heart . . .
Yet Cenerentola’s appeal for the forgiveness of her family enhances her own nobility of heart. Leonard’s heroine declares “sarà mia vendetta il lor perdono” [“my revenge will be their forgiveness”] with a simplicity of line suggesting her sincerity. In the final “Nacqui all’ affanno” [“I was born to sorrow”] she uses an opposing effect, applying multiple decorations on “core,” “la sorte mia,” and “rapido” to describe the swift change in her fortune. Leonard performs “Non più mesta” [“No longer sad”] with breathless runs and forte spirit, while she is here left to muse, accompanied only by her companions of the hearth, on “il mio lungo palpitar” [“my long years of heartache”]. Goodness has won out, at least in spirit.”
Salvatore Calomino – Opera Today
“With a superb cast and charming production, Lyric hits several high notes in delightful “Cenerentola” . . . With the charismatic Isabel Leonard in the title role . . . Lyric’s Cinderella proved delightful from start to finish.
As Angelina, the radiant Isabel Leonard brought a believable human quality to the abused, put-upon girl amid the surrounding farce. She was affecting in her honest love for the prince Don Ramiro–who masquerades as his own valet—and Cinderella’s genuine willingness to forgive her insufferable stepsisters and mendacious father . . . [Leonard] sang touchingly in Cinderella’s melancholy moments while throwing off Rossini’s high-flying roulades and coloratura runs with pinpoint accuracy and agility.”
Lawrence A. Johnson – Chicago Classical Review
“. . . Isabel Leonard quickly found her footing in the title role of Cinderella or Angelina, as she is known in Rossini’s version, personifying the gentle beauty and shy humility we expect of this character. With impressive vocal flexibility and depth, [Leonard] ably captured the dark-hued, melancholic flavor of the opening aria and brilliantly lit up the coloratura that came later.”
Kyle MacMillan – Chicago Sun-Times
“Lyric Opera of Chicago hits a home run with Rossini’s Cinderella . . . Yet as boldly colorful as the sets and costumes are, they pale next to Isabel Leonard who, in the title role, radiates beauty, warmth and talent. Yes, the Grammy-winning mezzo-soprano can act as well as sing.”
Janet Arvia – Examiner.com
“What we get in this very creative production by Spanish director Joan Font (produced at Houston Grand Opera when Lyric general director Anthony Freud was heading things up there) is an intriguing interpretation, and an example of what can happen when all the elements that make up opera come together in near-perfect harmony. Voices? Yes. All-round, from fetching mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard in the title role . . .”
Deanna Isaacs – Reader.com
“Lyric’s cast is packed with agile singers who navigate Rossini’s splendid ornamentations with grace. For starters, the lovely American soprano Isabel Leonard has the title role, and her vocal pyrotechnics are dazzling. She is a superb actress as well, touching our heart as she begs her stepfather for permission to go to the ball and later, tenderly forgiving the selfish members of her step-family, one by one.”
Dorothy Andries – MakeItBetter.net
“This “new-to-Chicago” production, coproduced with Houston Grand Opera, Welsh National Opera, Gran Teatre del Liceu, and the Grand Theatre de Geneve, is a sheer pleasure from beginning to end. The performance was extremely well cast . . . Isabel Leonard . . . has just the right style and personality to portray an amusing and very touching Angelina.”
Henson Keys – Parterre.com