La Cenerentola, which premiered at Rome’s Teatro Valle in 1817, is one of Gioachino Rossini’s (1792-1868) three most popular operas, alongside Il barbiere di Siviglia (1816) and L’italiana in Algeri (1813), all three of which are comedies. However, Cenerentola also contains more sentimental elements. At that time operas that contained a mix of comedy and tragedy like Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore and Bellini’s La sonnambula were in vogue. The text occasionally references Cinderella’s frustration with her step-family’s treatment of her, while her step-sisters provide comic relief through their constant need to outdo each other. Periodically, Cinderella states her dislike for royal titles and station, unlike her step-sisters.
The changes to the traditional Cinderella story allow for more drama and more complex characters.
Many operas have been based on the Cinderella story, including Massenet’s French version, Cendrillon, but La Cenerentola is certainly the best-known of them, if not the most typical retelling of the age-old rags-to-riches story. Rossini’s librettist Jacopo Ferretti based his text on the libretto of Cendrillon (1810) by Rossini’s French contemporary Nicolas Isouard, whose libretto was somewhat loosely based on the beloved fairytale from Charles Perrault’s 1698 collection Tales of Mother Goose. Consequently, some of the story’s most salient features are missing in Rossini’s version. There is no glass slipper; the evil stepmother becomes an evil stepfather, Don Magnifico; and instead of a fairy godmother, it is Prince’s tutor Alidoro (a mortal, whose name means ‘golden-wings’) who benevolently aids Cinderella. While not possessing magical powers, Alidoro functions as a fairy godfather.
La Cenerentola is a great opera for families and newcomers to opera because it’s fun. The music is very approachable and energetic and the tunes are catchy. The interactions between the characters are hilarious in this opera. Even Don Magnifico is more laughable than he is evil. When he becomes the steward of the Royal wine cellar, the audience gets to see him drunk. Although the step-sisters are minor characters, the audience still gets plenty opportunities to see their sibling dynamic and the way they try to outdo each other is always funny.
OCB is presenting La Cenerentola on Saturday, July 23. Reserve tickets here. Minors enter for free.