St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre

La Cenerentola


opera by Gioachino Rossini

Performed in Italian (the performance will have synchronised Russian supertitles)
 

Performers

Conductor:

Andrei Ivanov

Angelina (Cenerentola): Evelina Agabalaeva
Clorinda: Marina Aleshonkova
Tisbe: Anastasia Donets
Ramiro: Denis Zakirov
Alidoro: Miroslav Molchanov
Dandini: Viktor Korotich
Don Magnifico: Yakov Strizhak

Marina Mishuk (harpsichord)

World premiere: 25 January 1817, Teatro Valle, Rome
The premiere of the production: 17 April 2024, Mariinsky Theatre


Running time 3 hour 15 minutes
The performance has one interval

Age category 12+

Credits

Music by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Jacopo Ferretti

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director: Ekaterina Malaya
Set and costume Designer: Vyacheslav Okunev
Lighting Designer: Vadim Brodsky
Video Designer: Vadim Dulenko
Musical Preparation: Marina Mishuk
Chorus Master: Pavel Teplov

SYNOPSIS

The action takes place in Salerno in the 18th century.
Baron Don Magnifico has two daughters, Clorinda and Tisbe, and a stepdaughter Angelina, nicknamed Cinderella. The stepfather has taken Cinderella's inheritance, and she is treated disdainfully in his household, as if a mere servant.

Act I
It's morning at Don Magnifico's house. While Clorinda and Tisbe preen in front of the mirror, admiring their elegance and beautiful attire, Cinderella, as always, busies herself with household chores, singing a melancholy song.

A knock at the door is heard. It's Alidoro, Prince Ramiro's tutor, disguised as a beggar, searching for a worthy bride for his pupil. When the beggar asks for alms, Clorinda and Tisbe respond rudely, while Cinderella offers him bread and coffee. Alidoro is deeply moved by the girl's kindness.

Suddenly, heralds arrive, announcing that Prince Ramiro intends to marry and will soon visit to invite Don Magnifico and his daughters to a ball where he will choose his future wife. Clorinda and Tisbe are thrilled and excited, each hoping to capture the prince's heart. Don Magnifico is also delighted: if Ramiro chooses one of his daughters, he can improve his faltering fortunes and even become a noble lord. The house bursts into a flurry of activity as Clorinda and Tisbe prepare for the ball.

Meanwhile, having learned from the faithful Alidoro that Don Magnifico's stepdaughter is a kind and lovely girl, Ramiro visits the baron's house, disguised as his own valet, Dandini. He decides to see for himself and test Cinderella's feelings. Cinderella and the prince have a heartfelt conversation. After hearing the girl's sorrowful story, Ramiro is enchanted by her charm, kindness, and nobility.

Following the disguised prince, Dandini appears at the doorstep in grand attire, posing as Ramiro. With feigned admiration he lavishes compliments and asks Don Magnifico and his daughters to attend the evening ball. Cinderella also longs to go to the ball and pleads with her stepfather to take her along. But Don Magnifico is adamant. He explains to those present that Cinderella is not his daughter but merely a simple servant and furthermore, she is of unknown descent. Cinderella insists on her rights. Then an enraged Don Magnifico begins to threaten her while simultaneously fabricating a "touching" story about the untimely demise of the third daughter.

As everyone leaves for the ball, Alidoro, comforting the distraught Cinderella, promises to take her to the palace and also take care of her attire and decorations.

Palace Garden. Dandini, still disguised as the prince, tells Ramiro about the vice, hopeless stupidity, and emptiness of Don Magnifico's two daughters and suggests abandoning the search for a bride. Meanwhile, the rival sisters appear. They try their best to charm the fake prince, flirting and playing up to him. But Dandini reasonably remarks that he cannot become the husband of both sisters at once, and suggests a choice: if one of them steps aside, then a worthy contender will be found for the other–the prince's servant, Ramiro. Both sisters indignantly reject the offer.

Meanwhile, the ball is in full swing. Suddenly, the arrival of an unknown lady, brought into the hall by Alidoro, is announced. It's the transformed Cinderella. Her elegant dress and jewels have made her unrecognizable and irresistibly beautiful. She immediately attracts a crowd of suitors. The beauty of the unfamiliar lady, strangely resembling Cinderella, sparks envy in Clorinda and Tisbe and fury in Don Magnifico. Yet the sisters do not despair, confident in their victory: the prince (disguised Dandini), though he noticed the mysterious lady, nonetheless continued to shower Clorinda and Tisbe with compliments on their beauty.

Guests are invited to the table. After dinner, a spectacle is to follow, then dancing and the choice of a bride.


Act II
Disguised as a servant, Ramiro watches Dandini and Cinderella from hiding. Dandini confesses his feelings to the girl. Cinderella, unaware that he is not the prince but merely the disguised valet, rejects his advances, for her heart belongs to another–the humble "prince's servant." An overjoyed Ramiro overhears everything. Now, Cinderella decides to test her beloved's feelings. She gives him a bracelet: if Ramiro loves Cinderella, he will find her by this bracelet. Without explaining further, the mysterious stranger leaves the palace.

Prince Ramiro orders everyone to search for her. The faithful Alidoro has already devised a trick that will lead to a "chance" encounter between the lovers: the prince's carriage will break down right outside Don Magnifico's house.

At this time, the baron, unaware of what has happened, persistently asks "the prince"–Dandini–to reveal his chosen bride. In response, he only laughs, revealing his true identity. A scandalous scene ensues. Realizing how he has been fooled, Don Magnifico flies into a rage. Dandini shows him the door.

Back at Don Magnifico's house. The enraged master and his distraught daughters return. Seeing Cinderella, sitting as always in a dark corner, they continue to speculate about the mysterious lady who appeared at the prince's ball.

A storm begins. Amid the noise of the rain and thunder, there's a knock at the door. Dandini enters. Now as a valet, he reports that the prince's carriage has broken down at the baron's house. Following Dandini, Ramiro appears in his true guise. Seeing the bracelet on Cinderella's wrist, he declares her his bride. The future spouses leave Don Magnifico's house.

At the palace, Ramiro's wedding plays out. Cinderella forgives her woeful relatives and rejoices that her suffering is behind her.


Gioachino Rossini composed La Cenerentola at the age of twenty-five, and it became his twentieth opera. Understandably, with such extraordinary productivity, finding plots became a challenging task, especially with the need to navigate censorship. Two days before Christmas in 1816 Rossini, his librettist Jacopo Ferretti and impresario Domenico Barbaja brainstormed suitable opera plots. They rejected around thirty of Ferretti’s suggestions until they finally settled on La Cenerentola. Ferretti drafted the libretto overnight, Rossini composed the music in less than a month, and the premiere took place the following Christmas, on 25 December 1817, at Rome’s Teatro Valle. The opera’s fate and its heroine’s story resonate with each other: initially underrated La Cenerentola later dazzled and captivated audiences worldwide. Yet, live performances of this music remain a rarity: only the highest-class virtuosos can sing La Cenerentola with its frantic tempos and dizzying passages.
Although the La Cenerentola libretto indirectly derives from Charles Perrault’s fairy tale (1697), one would not label it a fairy-tale opera. The Teatro Valle, for which Rossini composed this piece, lacked complex machinery, making it impossible to beautifully transform a pumpkin into a carriage, or mice into horses. The opera also omits the story of the glass slipper, as the scene of fitting the slipper would have been deemed indecent in Rossini’s time. The librettist replaced the stepmother with a stepfather, and the fairy godmother with a wise mentor. Rossini’s La Cenerentola primarily stands as a splendid Italian opera buffa filled with disguises, a dazzling musical garland of arias, ensembles, choruses, and symphonic fragments with recitatives in between. However, the composer didn’t limit himself to the comic genre, and while Don Magnifico and Dandini are purely buffoonish characters, Ramiro (the prince) and Angelina (Cinderella) sing in the language of serious opera: their feelings are lofty and noble. Contrary to opera norms, Rossini gave the title role not to a soprano but to a mezzo-soprano, and a very rare one at that – a coloratura! And although no magical transformations occur on stage, listening to La Cenerentola often evokes a sense of wonder. This wonder is the human voice and its truly fantastic capabilities. Christina Batyushina


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