Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Subtitle: La bontà in trionfo (Goodness triumphant)
Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 8th of June 2014 at 6.03 pm

ROSSINI: La Cenerentola, an opera in two acts
The opera opens with Clorinda and Tisbe, daughters of Don Magnifico, in the middle of an argument. Their stepsister Angelina, who is called Cenerentola (Cinderella) and serves as the family maid, sings her favourite song, about a king who married a common girl. This variation of the old European folk tale then follows with everything except the fairy godmother.
Angelina (Cenerentola)... Joyce DiDonato
Don Ramiro...................... Juan Diego Flórez
Dandini............................. Pietro Spagnoli
Don Magnifico................. Alessandro Corbelli
Alidoro............................. Luca Pisaroni
Clorinda........................... Rachelle Durkin
Tisbe................................. Patricia Risley
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Fabio Luisi

LIBRETTO (Italian)

LA CENERENTOLA is a version of the Cinderella story (notice the Italian word for "cinders" [cenere] in her name, Cenerentola). Magical elements have been excluded (notably a pumpkin being turned into a coach by a fairy godmother). There is no lost slipper this time (by the way, that item of footwear was not made of glass but of fur; glass is not something you want around your feet!).  Her name is given here as Angelina (she is an angel who rises above the ashes).
There is no malevolent stepmother, but a father rules over the unruly household in the dilapidated mansion, and his ironic name is Don Magnifico.
The two nasty sisters (Clorinda and Tisbe) get their comeuppance: they are shamed, but forgiven by Cinderella and her prince, and they actually come up in the world, after having lived in a run-down castle.

Gioachino Rossini (1792 - 1868) LA CENERENTOLA (1817) 
Subtitled  La bontà in trionfo (Goodness triumphant)
This is a version of the Cinderella fairy-tale with the magical elements omitted: no pumpkin turned into a coach by a fairy-godmother. The glass slipper is absent (properly a slipper of fur; glass is not something you want around your feet!).
[1.1] In a shabby room in the tumbledown castle of the Baron named Don Magnifico (though his time of magnificence has long gone) his two daughters, namely Clorinda and Tisbe, are preening themselves. Angelina, their stepsister, known as Cenerentola (Cinderella), does all the housework, and is constantly at their beck and call. She is stimulating the embers in the fireplace with bellows, in order to make coffee. She sings as she toils; her song (Una volta c’era un re, Once there was a king ) tells of a monarch who was tired of being alone, and when he came to choosing a bride he rejected pride and beauty and went for innocence and goodness (note the subtitle, Goodness triumphant). 
   A beggar knocks at the door; he is a philosopher in disguise, Alidoro by name, who is tutor to the Prince, Don Ramiro. The haughty sisters dismiss him rudely, but Cenerentola gives him coffee and bread; he quietly predicts that Heaven will reward her for this; her sisters upbraid her violently.  A contingent of courtiers arrives to announce that the Prince is on his way to invite the “lovely daughters of Don Magnifico” to a ball, where he will choose his bride from the bevy of beauties who attend. Clorinda and Tisbe immediately start shouting  at their maid to bring their finery; she expresses (to herself) disappointment over being left out. The sisters argue about who will inform their sleeping father, but he is woken up by their noise.
[1.2] Don Magnifico rebukes his “female offshoots” (rampolli femminini) for disturbing him while he was enjoying a fabulous dream. He saw a donkey which sprouted feathers and flew up to a steeple where bells were ringing. His interpretation is that the bells foretell merriment in his house, the feathers represent his daughters, the flight signifies their elevation above the common throng, and he himself is the worthy ass, and they will both become queens and give him royal grandchildren. The two girls confirm the imminent arrival of the Prince on his quest for a bride.
[1.3]  When Prince Ramiro appears, he has disguised himself as his own valet, so as to observe the young ladies of the house; he must obey a tyrannical decree, and marry without love; but Alidoro has just assured him that he will find in this place a sweet and worthy wife.
[1.4]  Cinderella enters, carrying a cup of coffee and humming happily. On sighting the stranger she drops everything. Am I a monster? he asks. Yes, she replies, and then corrects herself, No. Both muse over the tender feelings that have been aroused in their hearts. He asks to see the Baron’s daughters, and she tells him they are coming. But who is she, he inquires. She does not know, exactly. “My father is not my father ... but only of my two sisters ... my mother was a widow, but was still the mother of those two ....” She is sorry for being so confused, but he is charmed by her simplicity; she has stolen his heart. She is called away.
[1.5]  Ramiro is puzzled: how can the owner of such a lovely face be clothed in rags? Don Magnifico is informed by him that the Prince will arrive in three minutes, and he goes to hurry his daughters up.
[1.6] Dandini, disguised as the Prince, comes in with the courtiers, who are urging swiftness in choosing a spouse, or the princely line will become extinct.  Dandini’s cavatina (“short simple song”) likens him to a bee darting about in the flowers in search of nectar, as he is roving among the fair maidens, though not finding one that pleases him.  The family flatter him fulsomely. Ramiro is wondering where the girl of grace and goodness is. The carriages are waiting to take them.  Cinderella appears and implores Magnifico to take her also, if only for short while; but he scorns her request, causing the real Prince to get secretly angry.
   Alidoro enters with a register, demanding to see the third daughter. She is dead. Cinderella denies it, but she is viciously overruled. After a noisy ensemble, they all depart without her.
[1.7]  Alidoro returns in his beggar disguise, and tells Cinderella that everything will change (including his mask and robe, which he removes). Have no fear, and come to the Prince’s festivities.
[1.8]  The Magnifico family has reached the palace of Don Ramiro. The Baron has spouted his knowledge of viticulture, so the counterfeit Prince (Dandini) sends him to the cellar to test the wines, with the prospect of being appointed vintner (and to make him tipsy). Dandini is left alone with the sisters, to sound them out.
[1.9]  The sisters compete for Dandini’s favour; each of them believes she is the chosen one.
[1.10]  In a salon in the palace Magnifico has been appointed butler, having sampled thirty barrels and shown no sign of staggering. He magnifies himself to the courtiers.
[1.11]  Ramiro asks Dandini for a report on the sisters: they are a mixture of insolence, capriciousness, and vanity. Yet Alidoro had recommended one of the Baron’s daughters.
[1.12]  The sisters come looking for “Princikin” (Principino). Dandini says he can not marry both of them, so one can have his friend (Ramiro, the real Prince); they see him as a  valet and vehemently reject the offer.
[1.13]  Alidora introduces a veiled lady, who arouses a variety of emotions, notably jealousy in the sisters.
[1.14]  Cinderella speaks: I disdain those gifts which fickle Fortune bestows on us; let him who would have me as his wife offer me respect, love, goodness (kindness, bontà).
[1.15]  When Cinderella lifts her veil there is surprise, recognition, and uncertainty.
[1.16]  Magnifico calls the guests to supper, and notices the resemblance to Cinderella, but the daughters deny it. Ramiro sees that she is gazing at him, and he is moved. All are delighted, but they fear an earthquake will shatter their dream.

When the Prince has caught her on his court-ship he will take her to be the Princess of his court

Gioachino Rossini (1792 - 1868) LA CENERENTOLA (1817)  PART 2
Subtitled  La bontà in trionfo (Goodness triumphant)

We know that there is no lost shoe (the glass slipper nonsense has been banished, along with all the magic stuff, and not even replaced by a fur slipper} which will prove that Cinderella was the mysterious belle of the ball when the prince goes searching for her (it would match the other one and also fit her foot perfectly). So what is the means of proving her identity (besides her face)?
[2.1] In the palace of Don Ramiro (the Prince who is needing a wife in urgent haste, because of a royal decree to that effect) Don Magnifico is in conversation with his two daughters, namely Tisbe and Clorinda. They do not believe that the girl who resembles their Cinderella can really be a rival for the Prince’s affection; one of them is definitely going to be a princess. The Baron continues his fantasy of being the person to whom petitioners will come bearing gifts and begging him to approach the royal lady on their behalf.
[2.2] Remember that the Prince’s ruse to observe all the candidates for royal marriage is letting his equerry Dandini pose as Don Ramiro. Dandini declares his love to Cinderella, but she regrets to say that she loves another, and confesses it is the Prince’s servant. Ramiro hears this and is enraptured; he asks her why she is not pursuing rank and riches; she replies that virtue and love are her desires. He must not follow her now, but he will find her eventually in her home, through the bracelet she gives him; she will be wearing a duplicate of it; if he still likes her then, he may have her; and so she departs. The tutor Alidoro is pleased with the progress of this unusual courtship.  Dandini is deposed, and the real prince resumes his true identity; he vows to find her again.
[2.3-4]  Dandini is approached by Don Magnifico, for his decsion. Which of the daughters has he chosen? Dandini tantalizes him, but eventually reveals he is merely the Prince’s valet. Magnifico is furious, as the duplicity has made him look a fool.
[2.5-6] In the Baron’s old house, Cinderella is wearing her raggèd clothing, and singing her favourite song about a king who went for innocence and goodness in his choice of a bride; the family returns and starts harassing her. Her resemblance to the girl at the palace is again noticed. She goes out to prepare supper, with her beloved servant of the Prince in her heart. At this moment a storm is raging (also in the music), and his coach has overturned in front of their humble dwelling. This mishap is apparently set up by Alidoro, the non-magical non-fairy godfather.
{For the record, they played (on the radio) the Cenerentola overture as I wrote this, as it is Rossini’s birthday (29/2/1792)}
[2.7-8] Dandini enters the house and introduces Ramiro as the real prince. Magnifico thinks he has come to woo one of the sisters, and he orders Cinderella to bring in the best chair; she takes it to Dandini, but she realizes her mistake when the Baron barks at her  rudely. Before she can flee, Ramiro sees the bracelet: Is it really you?
A long sextet begins with celebrations and recriminations, and observations (Dandini knew this comedy would turn into a tragedy in the second act), but no reconciliations (she is roughly rebuffed when she attempts to embrace her family). Finally, Alidoro gives thanks to Heaven (so this must be one of those marriages made in Heaven).
[2.9] Finale  At the palace, Cinderella is crowned and enthroned. Don Magnifico (how did he get in there?) kneels before her and acknowledges her as his daughter, and his princess; the Prince rebuffs the sisters, but Cenerentola embraces them. Harmony is attained and goodness has triumphed (see the sub-heading above).

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