|Opera by Gioachino Rossini|
Rossini c. 1815, portrait by Vincenzo Camuccini
|Other title||La Cenerentola, ossia La bontà in trionfo|
by Charles Perrault
|Premiere||25 January 1817
Teatro Valle, Rome
La Cenerentola, ossia La bontà in trionfo (Cinderella, or Goodness Triumphant) is an operatic dramma giocoso in two acts by Gioachino Rossini. The libretto was written by Jacopo Ferretti, based on the fairy tale Cendrillon by Charles Perrault. The opera was first performed in Rome's Teatro Valle on 25 January 1817.
Rossini composed La Cenerentola when he was 25 years old, following the success of The Barber of Seville the year before. La Cenerentola, which he completed in a period of three weeks, is considered to have some of his finest writing for solo voice and ensembles. Rossini saved some time by reusing an overture from La gazzetta and part of an aria from The Barber of Seville and by enlisting a collaborator, Luca Agolini, who wrote the secco recitatives and three numbers (Alidoro's "Vasto teatro è il mondo", Clorinda's "Sventurata!" and the chorus "Ah, della bella incognita"). The facsimile edition of the autograph has a different aria for Alidoro, "Fa' silenzio, odo un rumore"; this seems to have been added by an anonymous hand for an 1818 production. For an 1820 revival in Rome, Rossini wrote a bravura replacement, "La, del ciel nell'arcano profondo".
The genesis of this work, written with surprising speed – both for the literary and the musical parts – deserves to be told, according to the account that Ferretti himself (the librettist) gave: in December 1816 Rossini was in Rome with the task of writing, for the Teatro Valle, a new opera to be staged on St. Stephen's Day; due to an unexpected last-minute veto by the papal censor, considering the impossibility to correct the existing libretto in order to satisfy all parties (censorship, impresario and authors), the subject – Francesca di Foix – was rejected, and a replacement had to be found.
In a meeting at the theater, where also the impresario Cartoni was present, Ferretti, who had some ill-will against Rossini (since the maestro had previously refused an earlier libretto of his for The Barber of Seville), agreed anyway with the collaboration and began to propose possible subjects; but one was too serious for the Carnival (period in which the premiere was postponed), one was too frivolous, the staging of another would involve technical difficulties and exorbitant costs ... Ferretti had been proposing, unsuccessfully, more than two dozen different subjects. Finally, between yawns, with Rossini half asleep on a sofa, the poet suggested Cinderella: Rossini stirred from slumber and challenged Ferretti whether he had the courage to write a libretto on that story; Ferretti answered back challenging Rossini whether he was able to clothe it with his music.
At Rossini's question about when he could have some verses ready to start working on, Ferretti answered, verbatim: "despite my tiredness, tomorrow morning!". Rossini nodded, wrapped himself in his clothes and fell asleep. Ferretti worked all night and, as promised, already on Christmas the first parts of the work were ready: working like mad, Ferretti finished the libretto in twenty-two days and Rossini set it to music in twenty-four days.
Despite the enthusiasm, however, the poet had serious doubts about the success of the work; Rossini instead was immediately optimistic and prophesied a full success in Italy after a year, and, after two, the same luck in France and England: "the impresarios will fight for staging it, as well as the primadonnas for being able to sing it".
The work, whose debut took place on Jan. 25, 1817, had a quite cold initial reception, but after the first, equally unfortunate, replies, quickly grew in popularity and, also internationally, enjoyed a success so overwhelming to be preferred over the Barber itself, at least throughout the nineteenth century.
Despite the fact that in the end the composer's words had been completely fulfilled, the collaboration between the Rossini and Ferretti did not go very far: Ferretti wrote only one more libretto for Rossini, the Matilde di Shabran, in 1821.
At the first performance, the opera was received with some hostility, but it soon became popular throughout Italy and beyond; it reached Lisbon in 1819, London in 1820 and New York in 1826. Throughout most of the 19th century, its popularity rivalled that of Barber, but as the coloratura contralto, for which the role was originally written, became rare it fell slowly out of the repertoire.
20th century and beyond
However, from the 1960s onward, as Rossini enjoyed a renaissance, a new generation of Rossini contraltos ensured the renewed popularity of the work.
There are changes from the traditional fairy tale in La Cenerentola because Rossini opted for having a non-magical resolution to the story (unlike the original source), due to obvious limitations in the "special effects" available.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 25 January 1817
(Conductor: Gioachino Rossini)
|Angelina (Cenerentola, Cinderella)||contralto||Geltrude Righetti|
|Prince Ramiro||tenor||Giacomo Guglielmi|
|Dandini, valet to the Prince||baritone||Giuseppe de Begnis|
|Don Magnifico, Cenerentola's stepfather||bass||Andrea Verni|
|Alidoro, philosopher and the Prince's former tutor||bass||Zenobio Vitarelli|
|Clorinda, Don Magnifico's older daughter||soprano||Caterina Rossi|
|Tisbe, Don Magnifico's younger daughter||mezzo-soprano||Teresa Mariani|
|Courtiers from Prince Ramiro's palace||tenors, basses|
In this variation of the traditional Cinderella story, the wicked stepmother is replaced by a wicked stepfather, Don Magnifico. The Fairy Godmother is replaced by Alidoro, who is a philosopher and is also the Prince's tutor. Cinderella is identified not by her glass slipper but by her bracelet.
- Time: Late 18th century – early 19th century
- Place: Italy
Angelina ("Cenerentola") is forced to work as the maid in the run-down house of her stepfather Don Magnifico. While his two mean, idle daughters, Clorinda and Tisbe, try on their gowns and jewelry, Cenerentola sings a ballad (Una volta c'era un rè) about a king who found his wife among common folk. A beggar comes calling. Clorinda and Tisbe want to send him away, but Cenerentola offers him bread and coffee. Courtiers arrive to announce that Prince Ramiro is looking for the most beautiful girl in the land to be his bride, and is on his way to pay them a visit. Prince Ramiro arrives, disguised as his own valet in order to observe the women without them knowing. He is immediately struck with admiration for Cenerentola and she for him. Cenerentola has to leave when her stepsisters call her. Don Magnifico enters and Ramiro tells him the Prince will arrive shortly. The "prince" is actually Dandini, Ramiro's valet in disguise. The stepsisters arrive and fawn gleefully over Dandini, who invites them to a ball at the Royal palace. Don Magnifico tells Cenerentola that she cannot accompany them to the ball, despite her pleading. Before leaving, Ramiro notices how badly Cenerentola is treated. His tutor, Alidoro, who had been at the house earlier disguised as the beggar, arrives still wearing his rags and asks for Don Magnifico's third daughter. Magnifico denies she is still alive, but when Alidoro is left alone with Cenerentola, he tells her that she will accompany him to the ball. He throws off his beggar's clothes and identifies himself as a member of Prince Ramiro's court, telling her that heaven will reward her pure heart.
The stepsisters and Don Magnifico arrive at Prince Ramiro's palace, with Dandini still posing as the Prince. Dandini offers Magnifico a tour of the wine cellar, hoping to get him drunk. He then disentangles himself from the family and tells Ramiro how stupid and obnoxious the two sisters are. Ramiro is confused since Alidoro had spoken well of one of Magnifico's daughters. Clorinda and Tisbe enter and impatiently pressure Dandini to declare his "princely" choice. Without committing himself, Dandini ponders the question "Whom will the rejected sister marry?" and suggests Ramiro as a possible husband. Believing him to be a mere valet, the two sisters reject Ramiro as a despicable choice and insult him to his face. Alidoro announces the arrival of an unknown, lavishly dressed yet veiled, lady (Cenerentola). All sense something familiar about her and feel they are in a dream but on the verge of being awakened with a shock.
Don Magnifico, Clorinda, and Tisbe are in a room of Ramiro's palace. Magnifico frets over the unknown woman who threatens the chance for one of his daughters to marry Prince Ramiro. The three leave and Ramiro enters, smitten with the unknown woman who resembles the girl he had met that morning. He conceals himself as Dandini arrives with Cenerentola and tries to court her. She turns Dandini down politely, telling him that she is in love with his valet. Ramiro steps forth and declares his love for her. She then leaves giving him one of a pair of matching bracelets and saying that if he really cares for her, he will find her. Encouraged by Alidoro, Ramiro calls his men together to begin searching for her. Meanwhile, Dandini confesses to Don Magnifico that he is really Prince Ramiro's valet. Magnifico becomes highly indignant, and Dandini orders him out of the palace.
At Magnifico's house, Cenerentola, once again dressed in rags, is tending the fire and singing her ballad. Magnifico and his daughters return from the ball in a vile mood, and order Cenerentola to prepare their supper. A thunderstorm rages. Dandini suddenly appears at the door to say that Prince Ramiro's carriage has overturned outside and brings him into the house. Cenerentola fetches a chair for the prince and realizes he is Ramiro. He recognizes her bracelet and the couple are reunited. Don Magnifico, Clorinda and Tisbe are furious. Angered by their cruelty to Cenerentola, Ramiro threatens to punish them, but Cenerentola asks him to be merciful. As Cenerentola leaves with her prince, Alidoro thanks heaven for the happy outcome.
In the throne room of Ramiro's palace, Magnifico tries to curry favour with his stepdaughter, the new princess, but she only wants to be acknowledged as his daughter. Cenerentola asks the prince to forgive Magnifico and the two stepsisters. Her father and stepsisters embrace her as she declares that her days of toiling by the fire are over.
- "Miei rampolli femminini" – Don Magnifico in act 1
- "Come un'ape ne' giorni d'aprile" – Dandini in act 1
- "Si, ritrovarla io giuro" – Prince Ramiro in act 2
- "Questo è un nodo avviluppato" – Ensemble in act 2
- "Nacqui all'affanno ... Non più mesta" – Angelina in act 2
Dandini, Don Magnifico
Opera house and orchestra
Scottish Opera Chorus – London Symphony Orchestra
Cat: 423 861-2
|1976||Lucia Valentini Terrani,
Teatro alla Scala di Milano Orchestra and Chorus
(Audio recording of a performance at Covent Garden, London)
New York City Opera Orchestra and Chorus
|DVD: Premiere Opera
|1981||Frederica von Stade,
Teatro alla Scala Orchestra and Chorus
Director: Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
Cat: 073 4096
Glyndebourne Festival Opera and Chorus – London Philharmonic Orchestra
(Video recording of a performance at Glyndebourne, England)
Cat: ISBN 0-7697-2258-X
|1987||Bianca Maria Casoni,
Giovanna di Rocco,
Chor der Staatsoper Berlin – Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Cat: LC 4883
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna
|CD: Decca Records
Cat: 436 909-2
Houston Grand Opera and Chorus – Houston Symphony
(Video recording of a live performance from the Wortham Theater Center, Houston, Texas, November)
Cat: 071 444-9
Royal Opera House Orchestra and Covent Garden Opera Chorus
Cat: LC 6019
L'Opéra National de Paris Orchestra and Chorus
(Video recording of a performance in the Palais Garnier, Paris, April)
Cat: DVD 3265
José Manuel Zapata,
Orchester des Südwestfunks Kaiserslautern and Prague Chamber Chorus
(Recording of a performance at the Rossini in Wildbad Festival, 13 November)
Juan Diego Flórez,
Bruno De Simone
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Liceu (Barcelona)
(Video recording of a performance (or of performances) in the Teatro Liceo, Barcelona, December)
Cat: 074 3305 and 074 3333 (Blu-ray)
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
(Audio and video recordings made at a performance (or at performances) at the Met, May)
|CD: Celestial Audio
Cat: CA 908;
Cat: 073 4777
- Osborne, Richard 1986, p. 37: "The prima on 25 January 1817 was full of mishaps and was noisily received"
- Blog da Rua Nove: La Cenerentola, Cinderella, A Gata Borralheira (in Portuguese)
- "Opera Statistics for the 2008/09 to 2012/13 seasons show 137 performances.". Operabase. Retrieved 14 December 2013.
- for a more detailed synopsis see John W. Freeman, Stories of the Operas: La Cenerentola, New York Metropolitan Opera
- Recordings of La centerentola on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
- Gossett, Philip; Brauner, Patricia (2001), " La Cenerentola " in Holden, Amanda (ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
- Osborne, Charles (1994), The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, London: Methuen; Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0-931340-71-3
- Osborne, Richard (1990), Rossini, Ithaca, New York: Northeastern University Press. ISBN 1-55553-088-5
- Osborne, Richard (1998), "La Cenerentola", in Stanley Sadie, (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. One. pp. 799–801. London: MacMillan Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-333-73432-7 ISBN 1-56159-228-5
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