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La Cenerentola, Opera by G. Rossini

La Cenerentola, Opera by G. Rossini

Gioachino Rossini had already demonstrated his comedic gift with the great success of The Barber of Seville when the opportunity to write another dramma giocoso came to him from Rome’s Teatro Valle. The Italian composer set his sights on Cendrillion, Charles Perrault’s famous fairy tale, and quickly composed a light-hearted, exhilarating score that would come to define his musical career. This season, Rossini’s La Cenerentola is coming back home to Rome on the stage of Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.

Working in his typical quick fashion, Rossini produced the music for La Cenerentola in record time. The unofficial competition he staged with his librettist Jacopo Ferretti about which one of the two would deliver his part of the project first was an additional stimulus. Indeed, the final product sparkles with an immediacy and energy that we can attribute to two creative minds at the peak of their craft, racing both against the clock and against each other.

La Cenerentola debuted at Teatro Valle in Rome on 25 January 1817 to lukewarm critical reception and thunderous applause from the audience. The opera became Rossini’s most often staged work, surpassing The Barber of Seville, and it enjoyed lasting popularity both in Italy and abroad.

Although clearly based on Perrault’s classic fairy tale, Rossini’s operatic retelling of Cinderella makes important changes to the story. Well aware of how picky Roman audiences were, the composer and his librettist took great care to remove all plot elements and characters that would turn their serious project into a story for children in the eyes of the critics. First point of order: getting rid of all fairy godmothers, pumpkin carriages and other mystical elements.

Instead, Rossini’s Cinderella is a poor young woman, continuously mistreated by her stepfather and her two stepsisters. Her kindness and her inner and outer beauty impress the charming Prince enough to make him go look for her throughout the land. Instead of a glass slipper, a fine bracelet helps him identify Cinderella, and the two live happily ever after.

Musically, Cinderella’s coloratura arias ‘Una volta c’era un re’ and ‘Ah prence, io cado ai vostri piè’ amaze both with technicality and ear-pleasing flow, while the stepfather’s basso solo ‘Miei ramipoli’ guarantees a few belly laughs. La Cenerentola might have a more down-to-earth, realistic plot, but Rossini’s music shines with fantasy and imagination.

image Rome Opera House / Silvia Lelli / Teatro dell'Opera di Roma