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What is La Cenerentola?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2016
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La Cenerentola is a dramma giocoso opera in two Acts by the Italian composer Giochino Rossini, who is also known for The Barber of Seville, William Tell, and The Thieving Magpie, among other works. La Cenerentola was composed in year with a libretto by Jacopo Ferretti, and was his first successful libretto. The libretto was built on several sources: Charles Perrault’s fairy tale Cendrillon, which is known in English as Cinderella; a French libretto by Charles-Guillaume Etienne on which Nicolas Isouard’s Cendrillon was based; and an Italian libretto by Francesco Fiorini which was set by Stefano Pavesi. Rossini’s La Cenerentola premiered in Rome at Teatro Valle on 25 January, 1817, having been composed in the three previous weeks, and featuring the same singer as Don Magnfico as had appeared in Pavesi’s premiere.

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The story of La Cenerentola is set in the rundown mansion of Don Magnifico and the court. In Don Magnifico’s home, the ugly sisters Clorinda and Tisbe, Don Magnifico’s daughters are arguing, while their step-sister Angelina, called Cinderella, is doing her chores and daydreaming of a fairytale in which a king chooses a bride who is good, rather than highborn or wealthy. This fantasy earns her step-sisters’ scorn. They are interrupted by a knock on the door, and the tutor of Don Ramiro, Alidoro, enters in disguise as a beggar. The sisters treat him with disdain, while Cenerentola, whom he takes for a maid, kindly sneaks him some bread and coffee. Courtiers arrive announcing a visit from Don Ramiro, the prince, who invites the daughters of Don Magnifico to his palace for a festival at which he will choose a bride.

Don Magnifico enters, and tells of a strange dream he’s just had which seems to portend royal connections for himself and his daughters. Don Ramiro enters, disguised as his own valet, Dandini, having been cued to Alidoro to the value of one of Don Magnifico’s daughters, who will make him a wonderful bride. Ramiro and Cenerentola meet, but she is confused and cannot do herself justice. Dandini, disguised as the Prince, enters and escorts the daughters to the ball. With Dandini and Don Ramiro standing nearby, Cenerentola asks her stepfather if she may go, but he refuses. Alidoro, in his official capacity enters and asks about the third daughter, and Don Magnifico lies, saying she is dead. Alidoro, back in his disguise, comes to take Cenerentola to the ball.

The second scene of Act I of La Cenerentola takes place in Don Ramiro’s home. Don Magnifico, having drunk a magnificent quantity of wine, is made the court vintner by the disguised Dandini. The Prince and Dandini check in to see how their plot is unfolding, and neither can see how either Clorinda or Tisbe can have the value that Alidoro has indicated. Clorinda and Tisbe find Dandini, still believing him to be the Prince, and he offers them his servant as a husband, which offends them. Alidoro enters the party with a girl who is surprisingly like Cenerentola, and the feast is announced.

In the first scene of Act II of La Cenerentola, after the banquet has concluded. Don Magnifico imagines himself as the Prince’s father-in-law. Cenerentola is importuned by the Dandini as the Prince, and finally confides that she prefers his servant, the actual Prince. The Prince and Alidoro overhear her comment and the Prince reveals the disguises. Cenerentola lays down a condition that if he loves her, he must come and find her outside the court. As a token, she gives him a bracelet that is a twin to one she continually wears. Don Magnifico confronts Dandini, still believing him to be the Prince, and demands his choice. Dandini chooses this moment to reveal that he is the Prince’s servant.

The second scene of Act II of La Cenerentola is set again in Don Magnifico’s castle. Cenerentola is back in rags and singing of the king who chose a good wife, as in the first scene. Her step-father and step-sisters return from the ball, and remark on how one guest looked like Cenerentola. A storm brews, and Alidoro arranges for the Prince’s carriage to breakdown by Don Magnifico’s gate. The Prince is, in fact, able to recognize Cenerentola, and all the plotting and trickery is unraveled, followed by Cenerentola asking the Prince to forgive her step-father and step-sisters. The final scene of La Cenerentola in the throne room of the palace completes the transformation of Cenerentola, who is a princess. When they come to beg pardon, she forgives her sisters.

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