Rossini's Cinderella changes things up from the popular fairy tale in many ways, and one of the big differences is replacing the evil stepmother with a buffoonish father by the name of Don Magnifico! Magnifico is a mean drunk who fears losing his estate, which causes him to push his daughters Clorinda and Tisbe to be chosen by the Prince. Baritone Peter McGillivray portrays this hilarious character in our upcoming production, and he tells us what it''s like to embrace and enjoy his wicked side.
What is so wonderful about Rossini's music in Cinderella?
Probably what is most interesting about Cinderella are the virtuosic set piece ensembles. Rossini masterfully builds so much comic energy into these sections, they are as fun to perform as they are to hear and behold. You don't have to understand Italian in the slightest to understand the comedy of having everyone on stage spouting rapid fire patter as fast as they can.
Don Magnifico is quite a mean character. Any redeeming qualities that you see?
There isn't much that is appealing about Don Magnifico - he's an appalling specimen of humanity. But I suppose he knows how to enjoy a good time - is that a virtue of sorts? And at least he loves two-thirds of his daughters, in his own way. Other than that he's a boorish, snobby and a hideous grotesquerie of a father. Maybe that's why he's so fun to play. Pure, unadulterated id at all times.
Tell us more about playing the buffoon in this opera. Are you anything like that in real life?
Oh heavens, no! I'm a preacher's kid and I've always (well, almost always) been a good boy my whole life. It's fun to play such a nasty character, kind of an opportunity to play out all your most horrible fantasies of misbehavior. The challenge with playing buffoons in opera is to balance singing with good technique and with colourful characterization.
Do you think there's a mischievous scene in this opera the audience might love?
At a point in the first act I am appointed as the Prince's royal winemaker, which of course necessitates a thorough and and shall we say, exhaustive quality control investigation.
How will Cinderella resonate with a contemporary audience?
The Cinderella story in all its iterations is a familiar tale whether it be from the Disney cartoon or movies like Pretty Woman. It's an easy story to understand and Cinderella is such and easy character to sympathize with that I don't think we'll ever ever tire of her. We all like to cheer for the underdogs and enjoy seeing great injustices put to right, now perhaps more than ever. The more absurd and undeserving the injustices and abuse, the more satisfying it is to see the antagonists receive their just rewards. This is the kernel of human truth that underlies all the madcap, hilarious antics along the way.
Edmonton audiences last saw you in 2014's Die Fledermaus. What do you like about performing here?
Growing up in northern Saskatchewan in the 1980's, Edmonton was the great metropolis of my childhood dreams and the home of our heros, Wayne Gretzky & the Oilers, not to mention the mythic West Edmonton Mall. Edmonton was where the cool kids got to go on vacation. Maybe that's why the mere mention of the city still makes my adult heart skip a beat or two.
Come see Peter McGillivray as the wicked but funny Don Magnifico in our production of Rossini's Cinderella! The show opens this Saturday February 4, and also plays February 7 & 9. Tickets are selling fast! Get yours today from $40.