Major Operas | La Cenerentola by Gioachino Rossini | Early Romantic

Rossini’s two-act version of the Cinderella story, his twentieth opera and last Italian comic opera, received its first performance at the Teatro Valle in Rome on 25 January 1817. This was followed by performances in London (1820), Vienna (1822) and New York (1826).

The Teatro Valle, which had commissioned Rossini to write the opera for the carnival in Rome, gave him a deadline of 26 December 1816. However, by 23 December, no subject had yet been decided. The librettist, Jacopo Ferretti (1784–1852) suggested 20 possibilities to Rossini. The composer rejected them all. At last, though, Rossini agreed to the Cinderella theme.

Ferretti stayed up all night, writing an outline. Just over three weeks later, the libretto was complete and Rossini composed the music for it in another 24 days. When the premiere of La Cenerentola (‘Cinderella’, 1817) took place, just over six weeks separated the initial idea from the first performance. Unfortunately, the opera was not well received and Ferretti became depressed. Rossini, however, assured him that audiences would eventually ‘fall in love’ with La Cenerentola. He was right. In the last few days of the Rome Carnival, the opera was being applauded frenziedly by its audiences.

Composed: 1816–17
Premiered: 1817, Rome
Libretto by Jacopo Ferretti, after Charles Perraut

Act I

Don Magnifico’s daughters Clorinda and Tisbe pamper themselves while his stepdaughter Cenerentola completes her chores. A beggar – in fact Prince Ramiro’s tutor, Alidoro – comes to the door. The sisters send him away, but Cenerentola gives him food. He says her goodness will be rewarded. Prince Ramiro, who is holding a ball to find a bride, arrives. Don Magnifico hopes that he will marry one of his daughters.

Prince Ramiro arrives, disguised as his valet, Dandini. Alidoro has told him that one of Don Magnifico’s daughters is a suitable bride. He meets Cenerentola and they fall in love. Ramiro announces the arrival of the ‘prince’ – a disguised Dandini. Cenerentola pleads in vain to be allowed to attend the ball. Alidoro asks the whereabouts of Don Magnifico’s third daughter and he declares that she is dead. Everyone leaves for the ball. Cenerentola encounters the ‘beggar’, who reveals his identity and asks her to accompany him to the ball.

The ‘prince’ escorts the sisters into the palace and offers Don Magnifico the position of court vintner. Dandini tells Ramiro that the sisters are awful. Dandini offers his ‘valet’ – Ramiro – to the sister he does not choose; they are unimpressed. Alidoro introduces a lady; all are struck by her resemblance to Cenerentola.

Act II

Don Magnifico is worried and Ramiro bewildered by the mysterious guest. Ramiro hides as she enters with Dandini. She tells the ‘prince’ that she is in love with his valet; Ramiro reveals himself. Cenerentola tells him that he must seek her out, and gives him one of two matching bracelets. She leaves; Ramiro and Dandini resume their identities.

Don Magnifico demands to know which daughter Dandini is to marry;...

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