Opera by Gioachino Rossini
Opera by Gioachino Rossini
“La Cenerentola, ossia La bontà in trionfo” (“Cinderella, or Goodness Triumphant”) is an operatic drama giocoso in two acts by Gioachino Rossini. The libretto was written by Jacopo Ferretti and it was borrowed from Charles Perrault’s fairy-tale of the same name.
The first performance of the opera was on 25 January 1817 at Teatro Valle in Rome.
Rossini was 25-years old, when he wrote “La Cenerentola”, but he had already behind him a series of opera pearls like “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”, “Tancredi”, “L’Italiana in Algeri” and others.
The opera “La Cenerentola” is considered to be one of the most exquisite scores for vocal and ensemble. Because of the usual lack of time, way, terms and tempi of composition, the whole opera was finished in three weeks. For this reason, Rossini used in it the overture from “La Gazetta”, an opera buffa, written several years before, as well as a part of an aria from “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”. Some help Rossini received by Luca Agolini, who wrote the “dry” recitatives, as well as three other excerpts – of Alidoro, Clorinda and the chorus scene “Ah, della bella incognita”. Rossini changed and added different scenes and items on several occasions of next performances like these in 1818 and 1820.
The overture of the opera “La Cenerentola” is being often performed in concert programmes and takes part in the “standard” orchestra repertoire still since its creation, together with most of his overtures.
The first performance met certain hostility, but soon it gained great popularity in Italy and other countries in Europe, among which Lisbon (1819), London (1820), New York (1826). Almost during the entire 19. Century, its popularity competed with the one of “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”, but because of its exceptional vocal requirements and the difficulties in the contralto part, as it was written in original, gradually it dropped away from the theatres’ repertoire and turned into rarity.
In the ’60s of the 20. Century, Rossini’s music enjoyed a real Renaissance. The new generation mezzo-sopranos and contraaltos returned the popularity of “La Cenerentola” and it has been again on the stage.
There are also some changes in the fairy-tale itself, mainly because of Rossini’s choice of the visual realistic solutions, and not of the magical sorceries, as it is in the original, due to the evident limitations and the lack of “special effects” at his time.
In the last decades, numerous sound recordings of the opera were realized, and in the standard list of the most often performed operas it holds the 28th position among several hundred titles from the active opera repertoire!
In a hall of Don Magniﬁco’s castle, his vain daughters Clorinda and Tisbe are primping. Their stepsister, Cinderella, consoles herself with a song about a king who chose a kind-hearted bride (‘Una volta c’era un re’). A beggar (actually Prince Ramiro’s tutor Alidoro) comes in; Cinderella gives him some breakfast, angering the stepsisters. The prince’s courtiers enter, announcing the imminent arrival of the prince himself, who at a ball will choose the most beautiful woman as his wife. The ensuing excitement generates great confusion. The knights leave; so does the ‘beggar’, foretelling that Cinderella will be happy by the next day. Quarrelling for the privilege of telling their father the good news, Clorinda and Tisbe awaken him. Don Magniﬁco interprets a dream he was just having as a prediction of his fortune: the impoverished baron’s vision of himself as grandfather of kings is apparently confirmed by his daughters’ announcement (‘Miei rampolli femminini’).
On the suggestion of his mentor Alidoro, Ramiro has exchanged clothing with his attendant, Dandini. When the disguised prince enters the house, he and Cinderella fall in love immediately (‘Un soave non so che’). Dandini arrives, awkwardly playing the prince (‘Come un’ape ne’ giorni d’aprile’). Clorinda and Tisbe are introduced to him. Cinderella begs her stepfather to take her to the ball (‘Signor, una parola’), but Magniﬁco orders her to stay at home. Alidoro, with a list of the unmarried women of the region, asks Don Magniﬁco about a third daughter; he says she died. Everyone is confused. Later Alidoro reveals his identity to Cinderella and invites her to the ball, alluding to a change in her fortunes (‘Là del ciel’). At the palace Dandini and Ramiro share their impressions from Magnifico’s daughters. Clorinda and Tisbe scornfully mistreat Ramiro, believing him to be Dandini’s servant. All are enchanted by the arrival of a mysterious lady. When she unveils herself they are struck by her uncanny resemblance to Cinderella.
Magniﬁco imagines himself the prince’s father-in-law and as his wine steward proclaims new drinking laws. Ramiro overhears Cinderella refusing Dandini’s attentions because she loves his “squire”. Ramiro asks her to be his, but she gives him a bracelet, saying he will find her wearing its twin. If he still likes her then, she will marry him. Ramiro reassumes his princely role and is determined to look for Cinderella.
Dandini encourages Magniﬁco’s fantasies, and then reveals his real identity (‘Un segreto d’importanza’). Returning home, the sisters find Cinderella by the fire and berate her because she looks like the lady at the ball. Alidoro arranges a storm and causes an accident for the prince's carriage, which overturns in front of the house. Cinderella and Ramiro recognize each other (‘Siete voi’), and everyone expresses amazement (‘Questo è un nodo avviluppato’). Ramiro whisks Cinderella away, while Alidoro triumphs. At the wedding banquet Cinderella intercedes with the prince for Magniﬁco and her stepsisters. She reflects on how her fate has changed (‘Nacqui all’affanno, al pianto’).