Aside from “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” there is perhaps no more popular opera by Rossini than his interpretation of the immortal Cinderella tale.
“Cenerentola” premiered on Jan. 25, 1817, and while it became popular in its early life, it fell out of favor until a Rossini renaissance took place in the second half of the 20th century.
Short Plot Summary
Angelina, or Cenerentola works as a maid for her stepfather Don Magnifico. A beggar comes calling and is treated poorly by Magnifico and Angelina’s step-sisters Tisbe and Clorinda. Cenerentola offers him bread and coffee. Courtiers tell all that Prince Ramiro is looking for the most beautiful woman in the world because he intends to marry her. The Prince arrives disguised as a valet and his servant Dandini arrives disguised as the Prince.
Cenerentola and Ramiro fall for each other and he notices how poorly she is treated by her stepfather. Dandini, as the Prince invites them all to a ball at his palace but Cenerentola is told that she cannot go.
The prince’s tutor, Alidoro, arrives as a beggar once more and then tells Cenerentola that he will accompany her to the ball. He throws off his beggar clothes and reveals himself as a member of the Prince’s Court.
Dandini comments on the banality of Magnifico and his daughters. The two girls pressure him to pick a wife. He ponders the question of whom the rejected sister will marry and offers up Ramiro. Both of them reject him, thinking him a valet. They even insult him. Cenerentola arrives on the scene to the confusion of her family, who struggle to identify her.
Dandini tries to win over the heart of Cenerentola but she turns him down, telling him she is in love with a valet. Ramiro declares his love for her. She leaves, giving him one of a pair of matching bracelets and that if he really cares for her, he will find her. Ramiro issues a search for his beloved. Dandini reveals his true identity to Magnifico and kicks him out of the palace.
Magnifico and his daughters order Cenerentola to prepare their food. A thunderstorm rages and Dandini arrives to announce that Prince Ramiro’s carriage has been overturned. Cenerentola realizes he is the Prince and he finds her matching bracelet. Her family turns on her but Ramiro defends her. She asks him to be merciful with her stepfather and stepsisters. At the palace she asks the Prince for the forgiveness of her family and rejoices at her newfound happiness.
Famous Musical Numbers
There is no piece more famous from this opera than Angelina’s final aria “Nacqui all’affanno… Non più mesta,” which features all of the virtuosic coloratura runs one might expect from a Rossini showpiece. It is a concert favorite for many singers, often performed out of the context of the opera.
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Watch and Listen
Check out this version from Glyndebourne starring Kathleen Kuhlmann and Laurence Dale as Angelina and Ramiro.