Classical Sprouts: Rossini's 'La Cenerentola'
You don’t need to speak Italian to follow Gioachino Rossini’s opera, La Cenerentola’s plot; it’s based on one of the oldest fairy tales ever told – Cinderella!
Rossini was born in Italy in 1792 and showed signs of expert musicianship from a young age - he’d already composed six sonatas by 12 years old!
After writing his first opera, Demetrio e Polibio, though, he quickly realized this genre held his greatest potential for success.
Still, he had to work his way up; when Rossini wrote La Cenerentola in 1817, he wasn’t yet the popular, well-financed composer he was later in life, and his opera company couldn’t include all the expensive special effects written into the story.
La Cenerentola follows the Cinderella story fairly closely, but it does change a few things.
Cinderella doesn’t have a stepmother; she has an absent-minded dad named Don Magnifico.
Instead of a fairy godmother, Alidoro, an advisor to the prince, meets her.
And the ball is actually a dinner party, after which the prince recognizes Cinderella by her bracelet rather than her lost glass slipper.
In the opera’s opening scene, Angelina, otherwise known as La Cenerentola, is singing as she cleans the house, and the song she’s singing gives the audience a surprisingly detailed preview of what’s to come.
In Rossini’s opera, Angelina’s kindness sets her apart to the prince, and several of the opera’s scenes emphasize her graciousness even when she doesn’t know she’s under scrutiny.
For example, Alidoro visits Angelina and her sisters’ house pretending to be a beggar, and instead of writing him off like her sisters, Angelina offers him bread and coffee.
In La Cenerentola, which Rossini subtitled “goddess triumphant,” the Cinderella story has a much more optimistic ending than most – Angelina and the Prince reunite, she forgives her family and they all live happily ever after!
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Classical Sprouts is produced by Emily Duncan Wilson.