Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Cinderella)

Friday June 2nd

Just a fairytale?

This is the 20th opera of a 25-year-old composer! “Rossini’s La Cenerentola is defined by the idealism of youth. It is a comedy of errors, or of ideal love; the nobility of the heart and goodness overcome appearances, which for sure cannot be trusted.” TheOperaPlatform.eu.  “While Cinderella herself sees the complexity of the world, the other characters around rush headlong into a sort of frenetic madness; ... This madness is joyously crafted by Rossini [with a] positive message about the triumph of Good in a crazy world.” TheOperaPlatform again.

How it happened

Ferretti finished the libretto in twenty-two days and Rossini set it to music in twenty-four days. Rossini chose a non-magical and strongly moralistic resolution to the story (spoiler alert). He also inserted stronger social messages -  the wicked stepfather has squandered the inheritance of Cinderella, the philosopher Alidoro is no fairy godmother but a tutor and observer of human fickleness.

A singer’s opera

Our production from Barcelona stars two of the current Rossini stars (we met both previously with Donizetti). Mezzo Joyce DiDonato (remember Maria Stuarda?) has sung Angelina at major opera houses all over the world. Of her Met performance  NY Times said: “A dazzling, plucky and endearingly poignant Cinderella …She sang with impish glee, dispatching virtuosic runs and turns, leaping from her chesty low register to gleaming high notes.” Here’s a lovely concert recording of her singing Non più mesta, ("No longer sad."). Get to know her better with the New Yorker. Juan Diego Flórez is one of the world’s foremost Rossini tenors, with 17 Rossini roles in his repertory (we met him in Fille du Regiment and will hear him again in Comte Ory).  He’s quoted as saying, ‘Nine high Cs in Fille are a doddle, but a single C in the aria from Rossini's La Cenerentola is exhausting, especially because he knows he's expected to hold on to it indefinitely.’ (Guardian).

The Music

This is an opera famous for ensembles. When Angelina begs her stepfather to be allowed to go the ball, a quintet breaks loose! He refuses, the Prince and Dandini challenge, tutor Alidoro claims three daughters are registered, Don Magnifico declares Cinderella dead, and the orchestra responds. “Then Rossini begins his intricately patterned quintet, initially with three voices following each other in canon until all five voices are involved and the texture becomes increasingly overloaded. When they swing from a slow section into the fast final section in a new key, he constructs one of his famous crescendos, steadily turning up the volume and level of activity to the point where all five singers plus full orchestra are at full pelt; he then repeats the trick, raising the temperature even further, until a point of total confusion is reached.” (Guardian  again) And it’s not all quintets.  Watch the storm scene in this extract from Glyndebourne's 2005 production directed by Peter Hall.