La Cenerentola, Opera by G. Rossini
Watching and listening to La Cenerentola - the treat that awaits audiences at the Stavovské divadlo, the Estates Theatre in Prague - one is left to wonder just how its composer, Gioachino Rossini, could have possibly written his Cinderella in such a short space of time. Rossini reputedly did not start work on La Cenerentola until 23 December 1816. Assuming that he was not still writing on the day of its premiere, on 25 January 1817 at the Teatro Valle in Rome, his schedule allowed just thirty three days to create a masterpiece that many believe to be an even greater achievement than the brilliant The Barber of Seville.
Based on Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon, Rossini’s La Cenerentola eschews magic to tell the very human story that lies beneath the French master’s fairy tale. A party thrown by Prince Ramiro is the opportunity that the deluded Don Magnifico has been looking for to save himself and his less than desirable daughters from penury. He is convinced that the night will end up with the Prince choosing Clorinda or Tisbe for a bride; Angelina, his stepdaughter, but in truth little more than a servant to her adoptive family, does not even enter into his thinking.
Fortunately, for both Ramiro and Angelina, the Prince’s tutor Alidoro has already determined that Angelina is the woman most worthy of the Prince. At his palace, the Prince and Ramiro’s valet, Dandini, swap identities to ensure that Magnifico, Clorinda and Tisbe end up showing their true colours. Meanwhile, Angelina - La Cenerentola - steals the show as she makes her entrance at the ball.
While Rossini does not cast any doubt as to which of his characters should have our sympathy, he ensures that all of them have their moment to shine on the stage. From Don Magnifico’s superb cavatina, “Miei rampolli femminini”, in which he chastises his daughters for waking him from his slumbers, to Prince Ramiro’s cabaletta “Si, ritrovarla io giuro”, right after his declaration of love for Angelina, and the opera’s rondò finale “Nacqui all'affanno e al pianto”, which shows Angelina’s generosity in beseeching her prince to forgive her family’s mendacity, the melodies in this magnificent work do not let up for a single moment.