About Rossini - Cinderella

Everyone is familiar with the story of Cinderella, immortalized by the French author Charles Perrault. Yet this is not quite the story of the the Rossini version of Cinderella or as it is known in Italian La Cenerentola, even though Jacopo Ferretti was inspired by Perrault when he wrote the libretto. There are very few references to magic. There is no fairy godmother, pumpkin coach or glass slipper!  There are the wicked stepsisters, instead of a wicked Stepmother, there is a wicked Stepfather, instead of a fairy godmother Rossini gives us a mysterious man who seems to have magical powers. This Rossini masterpiece, whose full title is Cinderella or Goodness Triumphant, focuses on the adventures of Angelina, a frail and brilliant heroine for whom Rossini reserved his most tender melodies to be interwoven with those of Prince Ramiro or as he is better known Prince Charming. The voices sparkle, flow forth and mingle in arias and ensembles punctuated with clever puns and witticisms: this is Rossini’s musical comedy at its finest which he wrote when he was only 24 in just three weeks. There is certainly some magic in that!

 

Act I

Scene 1 (Don Magnifico’s house)

Tisbe and Clorinda, the daughters of Don Magnifico, are indulging in ecstasies of self-admiration. Cenerentola, their stepsister, sings to herself as she does the housework. There is a knock at the door and a beggar appears. He is in fact a philosopher and the prince’s tutor, Alidoro, disguised to better observe human behavior and to ascertain if any young girl in the region is a suitable wife for the prince. When he asks for charity, the sisters order him out, but Cenerentola secretly gives him coffee and bread much to the stepsisters repeated attempts to throw him out. Then a member of the prince’s retinue announces that the prince himself will shortly arrive and invites Don Magnifico and his daughters to a ball at which he will choose his future wife. The stepsisters order Cenerentola to make preparations. Don Magnifico enters in a dressing gown and nightcap and relates a dream he has just had of a donkey which sprouted wings and flew up to the top of a church tower. He interprets it that the donkey is himself, the wings are his two daughters, the church means a marriage and the flight to the top of the tower means a rise in the social scale.

Prince Ramiro appears disguised as his own valet. He has come on Alidoro’s advice. The first person he sees is Cenerentola, and their attraction to each other is immediate. Ramiro asks who she is, but in her agitation, she can give only a confused account of herself. Cenerentola is once more called away by the stepsisters before both she and the disguised Prince can fully realize their attraction.  The Baron reappears dressed for the ball and is warned by the supposed valet of his master’s approach. Dandini, dressed as the prince, now enters. He is received with an overabundance of reverence by Don Magnifico and his two daughters, whom he delights by his pretended attentions. He invites them to accompany him to the ball when Cenerentola intervenes and begs to be allowed to go too. Her stepfather brutally refuses, explaining to the supposed Prince that she is a creature of the lowest birth. Just then Alidoro reappears, no longer dressed as a beggar but as a member of the royal court, and declares that, according to the parish register, the Baron has three daughters. Where, he asks, is the third one? Don Magnifico, in some embarrassment, explains that she is dead and silences Cenerentola protests with threats of severe punishment. They all go out, leaving Cenerentola to sit by the fireplace alone.  A moment later Alidoro returns and tells her that she shall go to the ball after all; he has provided a coach and the richest clothes and jewels. Her magical evening is now beginning. 

Scene II (Prince Ramiro’s palace)

Ramiro and Dandini enter with the Baron and his two daughters. Dandini, still in his role of prince, appoints the Baron as Royal Wine Taster and decorates him with the chain of office.

The Baron goes off to inspect the cellars. Ramiro instructs Dandini to test the characters of the two ladies and report to him later. Dandini, left alone with them, does his best to pay equal court to each, and then, overwhelmed by their attention, makes his escape.

Don Magnifico celebrates his appointment by a ritual tasting of all the prince’s wines. He dictates a proclamation to be posted all over the city, forbidding the addition of water to wine for the next 15 years, under pain of death. Overcome by the exercise of his duties, he is carried away by the attendants.
Dandini rejoins the prince and describes the sisters’ vanity and insolence. They presently return, and Dandini, explaining that he can marry only one of them, suggests that the other shall marry his valet. They both indignantly refuse to consider such a marriage. Alidoro now approaches and announces the arrival of an unknown and masked lady.

The stepsisters show signs of jealousy, which increases at the entrance of the newcomer. She arrives wearing a mask but is at last persuaded to remove her mask and everyone is amazed by her beauty. The sisters are struck by her resemblance to Cenerentola. The company adjourns to supper continuing to voice their amazement.

Act II

Scene I (Prince Ramiro’s palace)

Ramiro suspects that Dandini has also fallen in love with the mysterious lady and conceals himself as they approach. Dandini in fact begins to make love to her, but she rejects his advances and declares that she herself is in love with someone else — with his valet. Ramiro comes out of hiding and tells Cenerentola his true identity.  She announces that before they can be married Ramiro must discover who she really is. She gives him one of a pair of bracelets, tells him that she will always wear the other so that he can recognize her by it when he finds her.

He decides to follow the unknown lady to the ends of the earth, and goes in pursuit of her. Alidoro, who has been secretly watching events, determines to arrange that the prince’s coach shall find its way to the neighborhood of the Baron’s castle.

Dandini is now joined by the Baron and, under an oath of secrecy, admits that he is not really the prince. The Baron’s is furious and vow revenge.

Scene II (Don Magnifico’s house)

Cenerentola is once more singing to herself by the fire. Her stepsisters back from the ball, are again struck by her resemblance to the unknown lady. The Baron is still furious over the the trick played by the Prince and Dandini, when they both rush in and reveals to everyone that he is true Prince. He recognizes the bracelet on Cenerentola’s arm, and to the surprise of the Baron and his daughters, pronounces her his chosen bride.

Scene III (The grand salon in Prince Ramiro’s palace)

Cenerentola, now the Princess, proclaims from the throne to the Baron and his daughters instead of revenge she will shower them with love.

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