You may remember Sylvia Szadovszki as the charming Rosina from our production of The Barber of Seville in 2014. She's now back as the hilariously wicked (or wickedly hilarious) stepsister Tisbe in our upcoming Cinderella. Read this New York-based mezzo-soprano's thoughts on Rossini's bel canto masterpiece!
After 2014’s The Barber of Seville, you are now returning to Edmonton with another Rossini masterpiece. What do you love about performing in Edmonton?
I was born in Calgary, Alberta, so it’s always great to be back in my home province. The audience in Edmonton is reactive, which as a performer on stage, I love! We want you to laugh when something is funny and we want to know you’re enjoying your time in the theatre. You can truly feel the energy from the audience when you’re on stage and during Barber I always felt an electric energy from the audience. I’m sure it will be the same with Cinderella! Another thing I love about Edmonton, or Edmonton Opera in particular, is the company itself. Everyone at EO is so kind and supportive, it really makes the rehearsal and performance process a lot of fun!
What do you find fascinating about the opera Cinderella?
I find the whole fairytale world fascinating. The fact that these stories have been around for hundreds of years and that they are familiar to everyone all around the world is amazing! I love stories that bring people together, and of course I love a story that ends happily. Although there are a couple of differences in the plot of Rossini’s Cenerentola v.s. Disney’s Cinderella or other operatic versions, like Massenet’s Cendrillon, the basics are the same. You really feel for Cinderella; she is kind-hearted, yet mistreated. You’re really rooting for her to find love and happiness. I think the best stories make you root for the main characters. Rossini is such an expressive composer, he really knows how to showcase the sweetness of Cenerentola, the chaos at the ball, the desperation of the step-sisters, and the excitement of love at first sight.
Which aspects of Tisbe’s character appeal to you?
First of all, I have to say that playing a sassy or mean character is so much more fun than playing a nice one! Tisbe and Clorinda are hilarious to me. They say the most ridiculous things, they are always trying to “one up” one another, and their scenes with the “Prince” are so comical. I think you have to find humor in their unkindness. When people are spiteful, as these girls are, it is always coming from a place of their own insecurity. The sisters really play off of each other’s insecurities. They are very self-centered and although it takes them almost the entire opera to come around and admit to Cenerentola’s worthiness of happiness, they do eventually show that they too have kindness in their hearts. Maybe just a bit deeper down than we would have hoped for!
Is there a part in the opera you think the audience might particularly enjoy?
I find Rossini finales so fun! The music is always completely chaotic but very organized at the same time. My husband hates listening to me practice them, but he can always tell when I’m working on a Rossini finale so there is definitely something distinctive about them, even to a non-musician’s ear. My favorite part in the opera, musically, is when Cenerentola is pleading with Don Magnifico to go to the ball. I usually find another character’s music to be my favorite part of an opera!
How might Cinderella resonate with a contemporary audience?
I think people love a sweet love story with a happy ending. I know I do! This show has a bit of everything - first love, disguises, swapped identities, jealousy, cruelty, kindness. You go through so many emotions in this show, there will be a moment (for me there are quite a few moments) that every person in the audience will relate to, no matter what age they are. I think for our younger audience members who unfortunately have to deal with bullying in many shapes and forms these days, they will be able to relate to Tisbe, Clorinda and Cenerentola. Whether it’s from the bully’s perspective or the person being bullied, hopefully seeing how these girls behave with one another will shed some light on how hurtful bullying can be.
So Tisbe is kind of a mean girl in this opera. Have you ever been like her, or at the receiving end of mean girl behaviour?
I think anybody growing up has been bullied or has been the bully, in some form or another. Luckily I never really had to deal with mean girl behaviour in my school. In high school my best friends were guys, so maybe that’s why! I have definitely said mean things that I wish I could take back, but I’ve learned from those experiences. Nobody can take back what they’ve said or done in the past, but we can all work toward being kinder, more understanding and more forgiving in the future.
Now tell us more about New York City living. What does your average day look like?
I could not love New York more! An average day for me consists of doing my workout in the morning, taking my dog Mint Julep to Central Park, practicing, possibly doing an audition, catching up on emails at one of the many coffee shops in the city, and if it’s a weekend - checking out a new restaurant. There is usually shopping involved at some point during the week as well! I walk around a LOT and I try to walk down different streets each day so that I see as much of the city as possible. There are always new spots to discover, which is one of the things I love most of about New York. Things are always changing. If you’ve never been, you have to visit! It’s an invigorating city.
On a scale of one to Tisbe, how much are you into fashion/looking good?
I’m a full on Tisbe and a shopaholic.
Enjoy our 1950s-inspired high fashion production of Rossini's Cinderella at the Jubilee on February 4, 7 & 9. Tickets start from $40 and are selling quickly, so get yours today!