La Cenerentola, Opera by G. Rossini
Despite being based on Charles Perrault’s magical fairytale, La Cenerentola has no fairy godmother, no pumpkin coach and no glass slipper. Instead, by removing its fantasy, Gioachino Rossini, the great master of Italian opera, creates a love story we can all believe in.
Even though Rossini declared that he did not want to create a mere copy of Perrault’s Cendrillon, it seems likely that the composer’s retelling of Cinderella may have been forced upon him by the limitations of early-nineteenth century theatres. Even more astonishing is the suggestion by Jacopo Ferretti, Rossini’s librettist, that he and the composer re-worked the narrative because audiences in Rome did not really like children’s stories.
Angelina, La Cenerentola, is an orphan and the stepdaughter of Don Magnifico. She lives in an old tumbledown castle with her stepfather and two stepsisters, Clorinda and Tisbe. She is little more than a servant to the family. Prince Ramiro must find a bride if he is to inherit his father’s throne and Don Magnifico knows that his family’s fortunes will only be turned around if one of his daughters can capture the Prince’s heart.
But it is Angelina, La Cenerentola, whom the prince falls in love with. His teacher, Alidoro, has already discovered that Angelina alone is worthy of the prince’s affections because of her kindness and good nature. When they meet, Angelina does not choose Ramiro because he is a prince since he, determined to be loved for who he is rather than for his wealth, has disguised himself as his manservant, Dandini.
Rossini, somewhat humbly, considered his Cinderella to be a dramma giocoso, but it is also a stunning allegory on the nature of the human spirit. It is what is inside us that matters, not what we own or possess.
When it was premiered at the Teatro Valle in Rome on the 25th of January 1817, La Cenerentola carried the alternative title, Goodness Triumphant (La bontà in trionfo). Goodness does indeed prevail in Rossini and Ferretti’s superb re-imagining of this classic tale, now brought back to Rome at Teatro Costanzi, the Rome Opera House.