On Jan. 25, 1817 Rossini premiered one of his most famous works, “La Cenerentola.” The opera, which is based on the classic tale of Cinderella, has become a vehicle for tenors and mezzos to showcase their virtuosic abilities and it has also been a work that has inspired many directors to explore the fairy tale in very eccentric ways.
However, it is also an opera that is perfect for younger audiences as the story is universally known. Disney has made the story famous with its two adaptations, the classic animated version from 1950 and the recent live-action version from 2015. As a celebration of the opera’s 200th anniversary, OperaWire looks at the differences between Rossini’s comic tale and the Disney versions.
No Fairy Godmother
Audiences have now been accustomed to the Fairy Godmother character who turns vegetables into a carriage and animals into horses. However, this operatic version of the Cinderella story has no such character. Instead of the fairy godmother, Rossini and his librettist replaced her with Alidoro, a philosopher and the Prince’s former tutor. After disguising himself as a homeless character, Alidoro reveals himself to Cinderella. When her stepfather leaves for the party, Alidoro sing his aria “Là del ciel nell’arcano profondo,” and presents her with a dress.
The evil stepmother that Cate Blanchett recently embodied so perfectly is non-existent in the Rossini version. Instead, audiences get Don Magnifico, Cinderella’s stepfather. The character is cruel to Cinderella but Rossini adds a twist. He gives the role to a buffo bass commenting on the fact that audiences should not take him seriously. As a matter of fact unlike the evil stepmother, Magnifico is constantly being tricked by the other characters.
Everyone always waits for the lavish ball where Cinderella and the Prince have their first dance and fall in love. While Rossini does have a “ball,” there is no big dance number or female chorus members. What Rossini gives audiences is a study of each character and their actions. For example the stepsisters go around the castle looking for the Prince and fighting for his attention. Meanwhile, Magnifico chases Dandini, the valet thinking he is the Prince to find out which sister he will marry. It’s not grandiose but it is comic.
The Prince and Cinderella’s fall in love in a scene when the Prince arrives disguised as his valet. The two sing a duet, “Un soave non so che.”
No glass slipper
It’s the most iconic part in the story. The prince goes all over town looking for the woman who left a glass slipper at his ball. In this version Cinderella gives the Prince, who she believes is the valet a bracelet telling him that if he really loves her, he will find her. After this moment, the Prince abandons the disguise and starts the search as he does in most versions. The Prince and Cinderella are eventually reunited.
The use of disguises
In Rossini’s version the use of disguise is crucial to the story. When Cinderella first meets the Prince she does not realize it is him because of his disguise. Similarly Dandini dresses up as the Prince throughout the opera while Alidoro dresses up as a beggar to get inside of Cinderella’s home. This use of disguise is never really played with in movie version except for when Cinderella arrives to the ball and no one can recognize her.