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.
|Dramma giocoso by Gioachino Rossini|
Rossini c. 1815, portrait by Vincenzo Camuccini
|Other title||La Cenerentola, ossia La bontà in trionfo|
by Charles Perrault
25 January 1817
Teatro Valle, Rome
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! Mi credea" 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 - whose literary and musical aspects were both created with surprising speed – deserves to be told, according to the account given by librettist Jacopo Ferretti. In December 1816, Rossini was in Rome and tasked with writing a new opera for the Teatro Valle, to be staged on St. Stephen's Day. An existing libretto, Francesca di Foix, had unexpectedly been vetoed by the papal censor, leaving no time to amend the text so that it might satisfy all parties involved (censorship, impresario, and authors). A replacement would have to be found.
Ferretti, despite harboring some ill-will against Rossini (the maestro had refused a libretto of his for The Barber of Seville), nonetheless met with the composer and the impresario Cartoni and agreed to join the project. However, when he began to suggest topics for the new work, one after another was rejected: too serious for the Carnival season in which the opera would premiere; too frivolous; too expensive and difficult to stage. Ferretti proposed more than two dozen subjects without success.
Finally, between yawns, and with Rossini half asleep on a sofa, the poet mentioned Cinderella. At this, Rossini roused himself sufficiently to challenge Ferretti on whether he dared write a libretto for the tale; Ferretti retorted with a dare for Rossini to clothe it in music. Rossini then asked the librettist if he had some verses ready to start working on. Ferretti replied, "despite my tiredness, tomorrow morning!" The composer nodded, wrapped himself in his clothes, and fell asleep.
Ferretti worked through the night and had the first parts of the work ready as promised in the morning. He finished the libretto in twenty-two days of breakneck work, and Rossini completed the score in an equally hectic twenty-four days. The poet had serious doubts about the success of this opera; Rossini, on the other hand, predicted that it would conquer Italy in a year and spread to France and England in another: "the impresarios will fight for staging it, as well as the primadonnas for being able to sing it".
La Cenerentola premiered on Jan. 25, 1817 and quickly gained popularity, both in Italy and internationally, despite a cold initial reception by the critics. In short, Rossini's prediction came entirely true, and Cenerentola soon overshadowed even Barber throughout the nineteenth century. Nonetheless, the collaboration between composer and librettist got no easier, and 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 leading role was originally written, became rare, it fell slowly out of the repertoire.
20th century and beyond
From the 1960s onward, Rossini's work enjoyed a renaissance, and a new generation of Rossini contraltos ensured that La Cenerentola would once again be heard around the world. The opera is now considered a staple of the standard repertoire.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 25 January 1817|
(Conductor: Gioachino Rossini)
|Angelina (Cenerentola, Cinderella)||contralto  or mezzo-soprano||Geltrude Righetti|
|Don Ramiro, Prince of Salerno||tenor||Giacomo Guglielmi|
|Dandini, valet to the Prince||baritone||Giuseppe de Begnis|
|Don Magnifico, Baron of Montefiascone and Cenerentola's stepfather||bass||Andrea Verni|
|Alidoro, philosopher and the Prince's former tutor||bass||Zenobio Vitarelli|
|Clorinda, Don Magnifico's elder 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 fairy tale, the wicked stepmother is replaced by a stepfather, Don Magnifico. The Fairy Godmother is replaced by Alidoro, a philosopher and tutor to the Prince. Cinderella is identified, not by a glass slipper, but by her bracelet. The supernatural elements that traditionally characterize the Cinderella story were removed from the libretto, simply for ease of staging.
Angelina, known to her stepfather and stepsisters as "Cenerentola," is forced to serve as the maid in her own home. She sings of a king who married a common girl ("Una volta c’era un rè"). A beggar arrives; her stepsisters, Clorinda and Tisbe, want to send him away, but Cenerentola gives him bread and coffee. Courtiers follow, announcing that Prince Ramiro will come to visit while he searches for the most beautiful girl in the land to wed. Cenerentola's stepfather, Don Magnifico, hopes to use this as an opportunity to save his own failing fortune.
When the room is empty, Ramiro enters alone, disguised as a valet. The "beggar" - in fact, his tutor, Alidoro - has informed him of a goodhearted young woman spotted here. Ramiro intends to find her incognito. Cenerentola returns, and she and Ramiro are attracted to each other (Duet: "Un soave non so che"), but when he asks who she is, she's overwhelmed and flees.
Finally, the "prince" arrives — the real valet, Dandini, who has taken his master's place - and Magnifico, Clorinda, and Tisbe fall over themselves to flatter him. He invites the family to a ball that evening, where he plans to find his bride; Cenerentola asks to join them, but Magnifico refuses (Quintet: "Signor, una parola"). This callousness isn't lost on Ramiro. Alidoro, still in his rags, returns to inquire after a third daughter in the house; Magnifico claims she has died. Left alone with Cenerentola, Alidoro promises to take her to the ball himself, and that God will reward her kindness ("Là del ciel nell’arcano profondo").
The prince and his valet have retired to Ramiro's country house in some confusion, as neither of Magnifico’s daughters resembled the worthy bride Alidoro had described. When Clorinda and Tisbe arrive, Dandini gives them a little test: he offers his "valet" to whichever sister the "prince" does not marry. The ladies are outraged at the idea of marrying a servant. Alidoro then arrives with a beautiful, unknown lady who strangely resembles Cenerentola. Unable to make sense of the situation, they all sit down to supper, feeling as if they are in a dream.
Magnifico frets over the competition his daughters now face from the strange lady ("Sia qualunque delle figlie"), but Cenerentola isn't interested in the "prince," saying she's fallen in love with his servant. An overjoyed Ramiro steps forward; however, Cenerentola tells him that she's going home and doesn’t want him to follow her. If he really cares for her, she says, he will find her. The prince determines to do exactly that ("Sì, ritrovarla io giuro").
Meanwhile, Magnifico confronts the disguised Dandini, insisting that he choose one of his daughters to marry. Dandini tries to stall, but is forced to admit that he's actually the valet, and not the prince at all (Duet: "Un segreto d’importanza").
A furious Magnifico and his daughters return home, where they order Cenerentola, back in rags, to serve them. A storm is thundering outside. Alidoro sabotages Ramiro’s carriage so that it breaks down in front of Magnifico’s manor, forcing the prince to take refuge within. Cenerentola and Ramiro recognize each other; the others comment on the situation (Sextet: "Siete voi?"). When Ramiro threatens Cenerentola's recalcitrant family, she asks him to forgive them.
Ramiro and Cenerentola are married, and celebrate their wedding at the palace. Magnifico tries to win the favor of the new princess, but she asks only to be acknowledged, at last, as his daughter. She reflects on the misfortune to which she was born and the sudden reversal of her fate, then forgives her family for all her past unhappiness, adding that her days of sitting sadly by the fire are over ("Nacqui all'affanno... Non più mesta"). Everyone present acknowledges that she truly is worthy of the throne.
- "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
Mitì Truccato Pace,
|Oliviero De Fabritiis,
Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Grand Opera series
Cat: 433 030-2
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)
|1977||Bianca Maria Casoni,
Giovanna di Rocco,
Chor der Staatsoper Berlin – Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Cat: LC 4883
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
Ambrosian Opera Chorus - Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Cat: 470 580-2
Vienna State Opera and Chorus - Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
(Video recording of a performance at the Salzburg Festival)
|DVD: ORF & RM Arts|
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)
|CD: Naxos Records|
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.
- 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