What is La Cenerentola?

The Italian composer Giochino Rossini, who is also known for The Barber of Seville, William Tell, and The Thieving Magpie, among other works, wrote La Cenerentola, a dramma giocoso opera in two acts. The libretto for La Cenerentola was written Jacopo Ferretti, and it was his first successful libretto. The libretto was based on several sources, including Charles Perrault’s Cinderella fairy tale, a French libretto Charles-Guillaume Etienne on which Nicolas Isouard’s Cendrillon was based, and an Italian libretto Francesco Fiorini set Stefano Pavesi. Rossini’s La Cenerentola premiered in Rome on January 25, 1817, at Teatro Valle, three weeks after Pavesi’s premiere, and featured the same singer as Don Magnfico as in Pavesi’s premiere.

The story of La Cenerentola takes place in Don Magnifico’s run-down mansion and the court. Clorinda and Tisbe, Don Magnifico’s daughters, are arguing in Don Magnifico’s house, while their step-sister Angelina, a.k.a. 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. Her step-sisters scoff at her fantasy. A knock on the door interrupts them, and Alidoro, Don Ramiro’s tutor, enters disguised as a beggar. The sisters mock him, but Cenerentola, whom he mistook for a maid, generously sneaks him some bread and coffee. Courtiers arrive to announce a visit from Don Ramiro, the prince, who has invited Don Magnifico’s daughters to his palace for a festival during which he will select a bride.

Don Magnifico walks in and tells of a strange dream he had the night before that foreshadows royal ties for himself and his daughters. Don Ramiro appears, disguised as his own valet, Dandini, and informs Alidoro of the value of one of Don Magnifico’s daughters, who will make him a lovely bride. Cenerentola meets Ramiro, but she is befuddled and unable to do herself justice. Dandini enters and escorts the daughters to the ball, disguised as the Prince. Cenerentola asks her stepfather if she can go with Dandini and Don Ramiro nearby, but he refuses. Alidoro enters in his official capacity and inquires about the third daughter, to which Don Magnifico responds that she is deceased. Alidoro returns in disguise to transport Cenerentola to the ball.

The home of Don Ramiro is the setting for the second scene of Act I of La Cenerentola. The disguised Dandini appoints Don Magnifico as the court vintner after he consumes a massive amount of wine. The Prince and Dandini check in to see how their plot is progressing, but neither can see how Clorinda or Tisbe can be of the value that Alidoro claims. Clorinda and Tisbe track down Dandini, who continues to believe he is the Prince, and he offers them his servant as a husband, which they reject. The feast is announced as Alidoro enters the party with a girl who looks eerily like Cenerentola.

After the banquet has ended, in the first scene of Act II of La Cenerentola. Don Magnifico fantasizes about becoming the Prince’s in-law. Cenerentola is pressed into service as the Prince the Dandini, and she finally admits that she prefers his servant, the real Prince. Her remark is overheard the Prince and Alidoro, and the Prince reveals the disguises. Cenerentola makes a condition that if he loves her, he must go outside the court and find her. She gives him a bracelet that is a twin to one she wears all the time as a token. Don Magnifico confronts Dandini and demands his choice, still believing him to be the Prince. Dandini uses this opportunity to reveal his status as the Prince’s servant.

The second scene of La Cenerentola’s Act II takes place once more in Don Magnifico’s castle. As in the first scene, Cenerentola is dressed in rags and singing about the king who chose a good wife. When her stepfather and stepsisters return from the ball, they comment on how one of the guests reminded them of Cenerentola. Alidoro arranges for the Prince’s carriage to break down near Don Magnifico’s gate as a storm approaches. Cenerentola asks the Prince to forgive her step-father and step-sisters after the Prince recognizes her and all the plotting and trickery is revealed. The final scene of La Cenerentola in the palace’s throne room completes Cenerentola’s transformation into a princess. She forgives her sisters when they come to beg forgiveness.