La Cenerentola


This page provides a transcript of the videos and voiceovers on the Opera Land website relating to La Cenerentola

Introduction

Welcome to this introduction to La Cenerentola. La Cenerentola meaning ‘Cinderella’ in Italian.
But first, a bit of background info: The music was written by one of the most famous Italian composers ever – Gioachino Rossini. He was also one of the quickest. By the time he was 37 years old, he’d written 39 operas. I think you might know some of his music already – (DOMINIC PLAYS OPENING OF WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE) Recognize it? That’s the overture to his last opera, William Tell. And then, aged 37, for a reason no one really knows, he never wrote an opera again. Instead, when he wasn’t dealing with marriage problems, lawyers, going to parties or feeling ill, he spent a lot of time cooking. Some say that Rossini loved cooking even more than he did music, (PHOTO OF ROSSINI) that he had a fantastic personality and was famous for telling outrageous jokes.

You can often hear that in his music too, which is in an ‘Italian style’ that Rossini not only helped to invent, but in which he pushed the possibilities of the human voice to a new extreme. Singers that could sing this stuff were the A-list celebrities of the early 19th century. When you hear an Italian style opera by Rossini there are really only two kinds of music to listen out for.

First of all, you’ll hear arias for solo voice (Cenerentola)
and music for two, (Don Ramiro and Cenerentola)
three, four, five and even seven voices.

These pieces are called the ‘NUMBERS’, and were an opportunity for singers get to show off their voices and for Rossini to show his incredible skills as a composer. But one thing these numbers don’t do very well is tell the story.

For that, you’ll need the second kind of music in this opera, called ‘recitative’.

You might think it sounds quite strange – there’s no catchy tune or a rhythm to get into. The words come out at the same pace as an Italian might say them in real life – but it’s all sung. It’s sung speech!

Recitative is great for keeping the audience up to date with the story so far. It may not give you much to hum along with, but the big tunes are being saved for the moment when the whole orchestra starts playing and more often than not, the singers pour their hearts out with one of those numbers I was just talking about.

So, let’s take a story we all probably know:
Incy Wincy spider climbed up the water spout,
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.

In this recitative, Incy Wincy Spider’s having to explain himself to the authorities.
DOMINIC SINGS AND PLAYS AN EXAMPLE OF RECIT.
And so on – that’s the sound of recitative.

You’ve probably heard a version of Cinderella at some point or other –you know – wicked step mum, ugly sisters, fairy godmother, glass slippers and all that. If any of that sound familiar, you already know the basic story. But the opera has three big changes that try to make the story more realistic and less of a fairy tale.

For starters, there’s no evil stepmother. Instead we get a cruel stepfather who’s a buffoon. The stepsisters are very ugly, but more on the inside. It’s their cruel thoughts and actions that make them ugly in the deeper sense of the word.

Secondly, forget all about the Fairy Godmother. To take her place, with not a magic wand in sight, we get the prince’s wise and mysterious teacher, Alidoro. It’s because of Alidoro’s cunning plans that Cinderella gets to the ball, and because of Alidoro that the handsome prince finds the love of his life!

Lastly, there’s no glass slipper. Instead, Cinderella wears two identical bracelets, and at the palace ball, gives one of them to the prince. Later on in the story, as the prince is trying to find her, he recognises Cinderella by the bracelet that matches his own/ on her wrist.

Finally, as you follow the story, don’t worry about the opera being performed in Italian. Super-titles above the stage make sure you’ll understand everything that’s being sung.

Let’s take a look at the characters/story...

The Story

Act 1

Poor Cenerentola is treated like a slave by her stepfather Don Magnifico and step-sisters, Clorinda and Thisbe. Together, they live in a run down castle that Magnifico can’t afford to repair. He’s spent all of his money, as well as Cenerentola’s on himself and his spoilt daughters.

Suddenly, Alidoro, the prince’s teacher and adviser, turns up at the castle, but he’s disguised as a beggar. The sisters are disgusted by the sight of him and try to send him away, but Cenerentola takes pity, and gives him food and coffee. Alidoro is very impressed by her kindness.

Prince Ramiro arrives. He’s been ordered by his father, the king, to find a bride or else forfeit his rights to the throne. Desperate to be loved for whom he is, and not just because he’s a prince, Ramiro has disguised himself as his own servant, Dandini. When he and Cenerentola set eyes on each other, it’s love at first sight.
But now, the prince’s servant Dandini turns up, but disguised as the Prince! He invites Magnifico and the step sisters to the ball. ‘If only the prince would marry one of my daughters’, thinks Magnifico, ‘I’ll be rich again, and finally be shown the respect I deserve!’ After they’ve left, Alidoro removes his beggar’s disguise and assures Cenerentola that she too will go the ball.

When she arrives at the palace looking totally gorgeous, everyone is amazed by the beauty of this unknown guest. But Magnifico and the two sisters sense something familiar about her. They fear that trouble lies in store for them...

Act 2

In the meantime, Dandini, the prince’s servant disguised as the Prince, has fallen in love with Cenerentola himself! She tells him ‘Thanks, but no thanks –you see I’m in love with your servant.’ The prince, disguised as Dandini overhears this, and comes running in. ‘Not so fast!’ Cenerentola says. ‘I’ll give you one of a pair of matching bracelets. I’ll wear the other. If you really love me, you’ll come and find me – you’ll know you’ve found me when you see that the bracelets match’. And she leaves.

Back at the fireplace, and dressed in rags once again, Cenerentola is all alone.
Magnifico and his daughters return from the ball- angry at the mysterious guest that could have wrecked their chances with the prince. Suddenly a storm rages outside, and a carriage breaks down outside the castle. It’s Prince Ramiro’s carriage. He and Cenerentola are overcome with joy as they recognise each other.

But the continuing arrogance of Magnifico and the sisters starts to make Ramiro’s blood boil. Cenerentola begs him to show mercy, and she and the prince leave together.

Now that she’s a princess, Cenerentola announces in her new- found happiness that Don Magnifico and her two step sisters must be forgiven and welcomed as friends. Amazed by her compassion, all agree that no one deserves to be princess more than Cenerentola, who vows that her days of slavery are finally over!

Characters

Cenerentola

Cenerentola is the orphaned step-daughter of the greedy Don Magnifico, and slave to him and his two spoilt daughters.
Although she’s treated very cruelly, she’s still a very wise and spirited girl, and has a heart of gold.

Don Magnifico

Don Magnifico’s full name is actually, Don Magnifico di Monte Fiascone, which means Baron of the Magnificent Fiasco. His name tells us all we need to know about his character – he is a buffoon, and apart from his daughters, everyone makes fun of him. He was once a rich man, but he spent all his money, (and the money Cenerentola’s mother left her) on drink and a luxury lifestyle, so now he and his daughters are very poor...

Tisbe and Clorinda

Tisbe and Clorinda, the daughters of Don Magnifico, are vain and arrogant. All they care about is their appearance, clothes and marrying someone very rich.
They can’t stand Cenerentola and treat her like a slave. Maybe they’re just jealous.

Don Ramiro

Don Ramiro is a prince who’s been away travelling. Now that he’s back, his dad, the king, has told him that unless he marries someone soon, he will forfeit his right to the throne. He sadly agrees to find someone, but being a romantic person, Ramiro hopes to find his true love. He disguises himself as his servant, Dandini, hoping to find someone who loves him for what he is, rather than for what he has.

Dandini

Dandini is the prince’s faithful servant, and as part of the prince’s plan to find a kind and honest bride, Dandini disguises himself as the prince for a large part of the opera. He supplies loads of the comedy as he struts around behaving like royalty, while being worshipped by the step sisters, but only because they really do think he’s the prince!

Alidoro

Alidoro is Prince Ramiro’s teacher. He wants to help the prince find a kind, honest woman to marry, so he disguises himself as a beggar, to test the kindness of Don Magnifico’s daughters. Alidoro takes the place of the fairy godmother. Using wisdom and intelligence instead of magic, he makes it possible for Cenerentola to attend the ball, which in the end, leads to her marrying the prince.