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La cenerentola

Gioachino Rossini

Rossini's La Cenerentola tells the familiar fairy tale of Cinderella anew. A work full of wit, a wealth of melodies and burlesquesituations.

Act I
Don Magnifico, Baron of Montefiascone, lives with his two daughters and his step-daughter in a rather dilapidated mansion. While Clorinda and Thisbe spend their day dreaming of a life of leisure, finery and dancing, Angelina (Cenerentola) must serve her half-sisters and do all the housework. One day, much to the displeasure of Thisbe and Clorinda, she sings a ballad about the king’s son, who goes in search of a bride, finds not one but three aspirants, and finally decides to marry the one who has a good heart. The song is interrupted by a knock at the front door. It is a beggar asking for food. Disgusted, Clorinda and Thisbe show him the door, but Angelina takes pity on him. She gives him bread and coffee. Her two half-sisters would like nothing better than to trounce Angelina; they are stopped only by the appearance of a group of cavaliers, bringing an invitation for Don Magnifico and his daughters from Prince Ramiro, who is looking for a bride. When the cavaliers announce that the prince himself is on his way, Clorinda and Thisbe can no longer contain themselves: they excitedly order Angelina hither and thither as they get dressed up in all their finery. The two finally end up quarrelling about which of them should be the first to give the news to their father. Clorinda and Thisbe’s argument wakes their father. He enters grumpily and tells them of a wonderful dream he has had: he himself appeared in it as a magnificent flying donkey and, enthroned on a bell tower, heard festive bells ringing. Don Magnifico interprets this dream to mean that as a grandfather, he will one day embrace a large number of royal grandchildren. Finally they manage to interrupt Don Magnifico’s torrent of words to inform him about the visit of the cavaliers and the invitation. Delighted, Don Magnifico considers the interpretation of his dream confirmed, at least approximately. Prince Don Ramiro enters disguised as a simple valet. He had been advised to play this role by his tutor, philosopher Alidoro, who had already reconnoitred the situation earlier as the beggar asking for charity.

Angelina and Ramiro fall in love on the spot. When the young man asks Angelina who she actually is, he finds out that Don Magnifico is not her real father, but the father of her two half-sisters. 

Ramiro cannot understand why such a charming girl should be dressed in such tattered clothes. The prince's cavaliers enter with the disguised Dandini, Don Ramiro’s valet, who on his orders is playing the part of the prince. With this masquerade,

Ramiro hopes to be able to identify the true intentions of the individual marriage candidates. The assumed prince is greeted gushingly by Don Magnifico, Thisbe and Clorinda. With evident pleasure, Dandini gains increasing confidence in his role as the prince. From him they all learn that it was a provision of the deceased king’s will that is forcing the prince to marry as soon as possible, as he will otherwise be disinherited. When Angelina modestly asks to be allowed to go to the palace and at least watch the dancing, she is silenced by her stepfather. Alidoro enters masquerading as a court official with the list of marriageable daughters in the house. Angelina is passed off as a maid; she is disowned and declared to have died. Ramiro is outraged at the way Angelina is being treated. However, his protests are lost in the chaotic preparations for departure. Full of anticipation, they all leave for the prince’s palace. 

Dandini plays his role perfectly and is not sparing with his apparent tributes to the conceited Don Magnifico, appointing him keeper of the cellar of the palace. As ordered, Dandini flirts with Clorinda and Thisbe, each of whom tries to win the prince for herself. Elated at his new office, Don Magnifico decrees and dictates a long edict, forbidding wine to be diluted with water for fifteen years. In the meantime Dandini reports to his master on the vanity of Clorinda and Thisbe, who are then no longer candidates for Don Ramiro's marriage plans. Festive music and excited calls announce the arrival of an unexpected guest: an elegant, veiled lady. She introduces herself with the statement that she disdains external glamour and intends to marry only the man who can give her a warm heart. She is then asked to lift her veil. The lady complies with the request; her beauty prompts cries of general enchantment. It is Angelina, who with the help of the all-seeing Alidoro has managed to come to the ball after all. All who know Angelina are stunned. They see the similarity, but cannot believe that this dazzling lady and poor Cinderella could be one and the same person. 

Act II
In Don Ramiro's palace, Don Magnifico holds a family powwow with Clorinda and Thisbe. The old man is greatly perturbed by appearance of the competitor, who on top of everything else looks so similar to his downtrodden stepdaughter. Magnifico’s bad conscience makes itself known: after all, he has squandered Cinderella’s share of the inheritance on his biological children. Faced by financial ruin, the only thing that will save him is if the prince marries one of his daughters.

Ramiro listens unnoticed to a discussion between Dandini and the unknown lady, in which Angelina rejects the advances of the man she believes to be the prince. She admits that she loves another, namely the “valet”. Elated, Ramiro rushes out and proposes to her. However, Cinderella imposes one condition: she gives him a bracelet with the assignment that he must find her. She will wear an identical bracelet in her usual surroundings. He will recognize her by it. If she does not then displease him, she will be his. After these intimations, she hurries away. Ramiro immediately orders his carriage to be drawn up. Impatiently he sets off in search of his beloved, but not before he changes Dandini back into his valet. Now Magnifico must learn the bitter truth from Dandini. Filled with impotent anger, Don Magnifico sees all his honours and the financial rescue he had assumed secure all disappearing. Back home after the ball, Angelina dreams again of the king’s son who wants to choose a wife based solely on the inclinations of his heart. Her dreams are interrupted by Don Magnifico who bursts noisily and angrily in with her disappointed step-sisters. They vent all their pent up anger on poor Cinderella.

A storm breaks out, and as fate – or one of Alidoro's stratagems – will have it, an accident right in front of Don Magnifico's mansion of all places brings the royal coach to a halt. Don Ramiro must seek shelter in the mansion. Thanks to the bracelet, the prince recognizes his beloved, kept as a maid. She in turn realizes the true identity of the man she adores. Deliriously happy, Angela declares her willingness to follow Don Ramiro. 

When the new princess enters the throne room, she is revered in grand style. Angelina asks her husband to forgive her relatives, since out of the goodness of her heart she has forgotten all her hardships.


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