La Cenerentola

La Cenerentola
Opera by Gioachino Rossini

Rossini c. 1815, portrait by Vincenzo Camuccini
Description dramma giocoso
Other title La Cenerentola, ossia La bontà in trionfo
Librettist Jacopo Ferretti
Language Italian
Based on Cendrillon
by Charles Perrault
Premiere 25 January 1817 (1817-01-25)
Teatro Valle, Rome

La Cenerentola, ossia La bontà in trionfo (Cinderella, or Goodness Triumphant) is an operatic dramma giocoso in two acts by Gioachino Rossini. The libretto was written by Jacopo Ferretti, based on the fairy tale Cendrillon by Charles Perrault. The opera was first performed in Rome's Teatro Valle on 25 January 1817.

Rossini composed La Cenerentola when he was 25 years old, following the success of The Barber of Seville the year before. La Cenerentola, which he completed in a period of three weeks, is considered to have some of his finest writing for solo voice and ensembles. Rossini saved some time by reusing an overture from La gazzetta and part of an aria from The Barber of Seville and by enlisting a collaborator, Luca Agolini, who wrote the secco recitatives and three numbers (Alidoro's "Vasto teatro è il mondo", Clorinda's "Sventurata!" and the chorus "Ah, della bella incognita"). The facsimile edition of the autograph has a different aria for Alidoro, "Fa' silenzio, odo un rumore"; this seems to have been added by an anonymous hand for an 1818 production. For an 1820 revival in Rome, Rossini wrote a bravura replacement, "La, del ciel nell'arcano profondo". The light, energetic overture has been in the standard repertoire since its premiere as La Cenerentola.

Composition history

The genesis of this work, written with surprising speed – both for the literary and the musical parts – deserves to be told, according to the account that Ferretti himself (the librettist) gave: in December 1816 Rossini was in Rome with the task of writing, for the Teatro Valle, a new opera to be staged on St. Stephen's Day; due to an unexpected last-minute veto by the papal censor, considering the impossibility to correct the existing libretto in order to satisfy all parties (censorship, impresario and authors), the subject – Francesca di Foix – was rejected, and a replacement had to be found.

In a meeting at the theater, where also the impresario Cartoni was present, Ferretti, who had some ill-will against Rossini (since the maestro had previously refused an earlier libretto of his for The Barber of Seville), agreed anyway with the collaboration and began to propose possible subjects; but one was too serious for the Carnival (period in which the premiere was postponed), one was too frivolous, the staging of another would involve technical difficulties and exorbitant costs ... Ferretti had been proposing, unsuccessfully, more than two dozen different subjects. Finally, between yawns, with Rossini half asleep on a sofa, the poet suggested Cinderella: Rossini stirred from slumber and challenged Ferretti whether he had the courage to write a libretto on that story; Ferretti answered back challenging Rossini whether he was able to clothe it with his music.

At Rossini's question about when he could have some verses ready to start working on, Ferretti answered, verbatim: " ... despite my tiredness, tomorrow morning!". Rossini nodded, wrapped himself in his clothes and fell asleep. Ferretti worked all night and, as promised, already on Christmas the first parts of the work were ready: working like mad, Ferretti finished the libretto in twenty-two days and Rossini set it to music in twenty-four days.

Despite the enthusiasm, however, the poet had serious doubts about the success of the work; Rossini instead was immediately optimistic and prophesied a full success in Italy after a year, and, after two, the same luck in France and England: " ... the impresarios will fight for staging it, as well as the primadonnas for being able to sing it ..."

The work, whose debut took place on Jan. 25, 1817, had a quite cold initial reception, but after the first, equally unfortunate, replies, quickly grew in popularity and, also internationally, enjoyed a success so overwhelming to be preferred over the Barber itself, at least throughout the nineteenth century.

Despite in the end the composer's words had been completely fulfilled, the collaboration between the Rossini and Ferretti did not go very far: Ferretti wrote just one another libretto for Rossini, the Matilde di Shabran, in 1821.

Performance history

19th century

At the first performance, the opera was received with some hostility,[1] but it soon became popular throughout Italy and beyond; it reached Lisbon in 1819,[2] London in 1820 and New York in 1826. Throughout most of the 19th century, its popularity rivalled that of Barber, but as the coloratura contralto, for which the role was originally written, became rare it fell slowly out of the repertoire.

20th century and beyond

However, from the 1960s onward, as Rossini enjoyed a renaissance, a new generation of Rossini contraltos ensured the renewed popularity of the work.

There are changes from the traditional fairy tale in La Cenerentola because Rossini opted for having a non-magical resolution to the story (unlike the original source), due to obvious limitations in the "special effects" available.

There are a number of recordings of the opera, and, as a staple of the standard operatic repertoire, it appears as number 28 on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide.[3]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 25 January 1817
(Conductor: Gioachino Rossini)
Angelina (Cenerentola, Cinderella) contralto Geltrude Righetti
Prince Ramiro tenor Giacomo Guglielmi
Dandini, valet to the Prince baritone Giuseppe de Begnis
Don Magnifico, Cenerentola's stepfather bass Andrea Verni
Alidoro, philosopher and the Prince's former tutor bass Zenobio Vitarelli
Clorinda, Don Magnifico's older daughter soprano Caterina Rossi
Tisbe, Don Magnifico's younger daughter mezzo-soprano Teresa Mariani
Courtiers from Prince Ramiro's palace tenors, basses


In this variation of the traditional Cinderella story, the wicked stepmother is replaced by a wicked stepfather, Don Magnifico. The Fairy Godmother is replaced by Alidoro, who is a philosopher and is also the Prince's tutor. Cinderella is identified not by her glass slipper but by her bracelet.

Time: Late 18th century – early 19th century
Place: Italy

Act 1

Angelina ("Cenerentola") is forced to work as the maid in the run-down house of her stepfather Don Magnifico. While his two mean, idle daughters, Clorinda and Tisbe, try on their gowns and jewelry, Cenerentola sings a ballad (Una volta c'era un rè) about a king who found his wife among common folk. A beggar comes calling. Clorinda and Tisbe want to send him away, but Cenerentola offers him bread and coffee. Courtiers arrive to announce that Prince Ramiro is looking for the most beautiful girl in the land to be his bride, and is on his way to pay them a visit. Prince Ramiro arrives, disguised as his own valet in order to observe the women without them knowing. He is immediately struck with admiration for Cenerentola and she for him. Cenerentola has to leave when her stepsisters call her. Don Magnifico enters and Ramiro tells him the Prince will arrive shortly. The "prince" is actually Dandini, Ramiro's valet in disguise. The stepsisters arrive and fawn gleefully over Dandini, who invites them to a ball at the Royal palace. Don Magnifico tells Cenerentola that she cannot accompany them to the ball, despite her pleading. Before leaving, Ramiro notices how badly Cenerentola is treated. His tutor, Alidoro, who had been at the house earlier disguised as the beggar, arrives still wearing his rags and asks for Don Magnifico's third daughter. Magnifico denies she is still alive, but when Alidoro is left alone with Cenerentola, he tells her that she will accompany him to the ball. He throws off his beggar's clothes and identifies himself as a member of Prince Ramiro's court, telling her that heaven will reward her pure heart.

The stepsisters and Don Magnifico arrive at Prince Ramiro's palace, with Dandini still posing as the Prince. Dandini offers Magnifico a tour of the wine cellar, hoping to get him drunk. He then disentangles himself from the family and tells Ramiro how stupid and obnoxious the two sisters are. Ramiro is confused since Alidoro had spoken well of one of Magnifico's daughters. Clorinda and Tisbe enter and impatiently pressure Dandini to declare his "princely" choice. Without committing himself, Dandini ponders the question "Whom will the rejected sister marry?" and suggests Ramiro as a possible husband. Believing him to be a mere valet, the two sisters reject Ramiro as a despicable choice and insult him to his face. Alidoro announces the arrival of an unknown, lavishly dressed yet veiled, lady (Cenerentola). All sense something familiar about her and feel they are in a dream but on the verge of being awakened with a shock.

Act 2

Don Magnifico, Clorinda, and Tisbe are in a room of Ramiro's palace. Magnifico frets over the unknown woman who threatens the chance for one of his daughters to marry Prince Ramiro. The three leave and Ramiro enters, smitten with the unknown woman who resembles the girl he had met that morning. He conceals himself as Dandini arrives with Cenerentola and tries to court her. She turns Dandini down politely, telling him that she is in love with his valet. Ramiro steps forth and declares his love for her. She then leaves giving him one of a pair of matching bracelets and saying that if he really cares for her, he will find her. Encouraged by Alidoro, Ramiro calls his men together to begin searching for her. Meanwhile, Dandini confesses to Don Magnifico that he is really Prince Ramiro's valet. Magnifico becomes highly indignant, and Dandini orders him out of the palace.

At Magnifico's house, Cenerentola, once again dressed in rags, is tending the fire and singing her ballad. Magnifico and his daughters return from the ball in a vile mood, and order Cenerentola to prepare their supper. A thunderstorm rages. Dandini suddenly appears at the door to say that Prince Ramiro's carriage has overturned outside and brings him into the house. Cenerentola fetches a chair for the prince and realizes he is Ramiro. He recognizes her bracelet and the couple are reunited. Don Magnifico, Clorinda and Tisbe are furious. Angered by their cruelty to Cenerentola, Ramiro threatens to punish them, but Cenerentola asks him to be merciful. As Cenerentola leaves with her prince, Alidoro thanks heaven for the happy outcome.

In the throne room of Ramiro's palace, Magnifico tries to curry favour with his stepdaughter, the new princess, but she only wants to be acknowledged as his daughter. Cenerentola asks the prince to forgive Magnifico and the two stepsisters. Her father and stepsisters embrace her as she declares that her days of toiling by the fire are over.[4]

Noted arias


Year Cast:
Don Ramiro,
Dandini, Don Magnifico
Opera house and orchestra
1971 Teresa Berganza,
Margherita Gugliemi,
Laura Zannini,
Luigi Alva,
Renato Capecchi,
Paolo Montarsolo
Claudio Abbado,
Scottish Opera Chorus – London Symphony Orchestra
Cat: 423 861-2
1976 Lucia Valentini Terrani,
Margherita Gugliemi,
Laura Zannini,
Luigi Alva,
Enzo Dara,
Paolo Montarsolo
Claudio Abbado,
Teatro alla Scala di Milano Orchestra and Chorus
(Audio recording of a performance at Covent Garden, London)
CD: Gala
Cat: 100.544
1980 Susanne Marsee,
Gianna Rolandi,
RoseMarie Freni,
Rockwell Blake,
Alan Titus,
James Billings
Brian Salesky,
New York City Opera Orchestra and Chorus
DVD: Premiere Opera
Cat: 6825
1981 Frederica von Stade,
Margherita Guglielmi,
Laura Zannini,
Francisco Araiza,
Claudio Desderi,
Paolo Montarsolo
Claudio Abbado,
Teatro alla Scala Orchestra and Chorus
Director: Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
Cat: 073 4096
1983 Kathleen Kuhlmann,
Marta Taddei,
Laura Zannini,
Laurence Dale,
Alberto Rinaldi,
Claudio Desderi
Donato Renzetti,
Glyndebourne Festival Opera and Chorus – London Philharmonic Orchestra
(Video recording of a performance at Glyndebourne, England)
DVD: Kultur
Cat: ISBN 0-7697-2258-X
1987 Bianca Maria Casoni,
Giovanna di Rocco,
Teresa Rocchino,
Ugo Benelli,
Sesto Bruscantini,
Alfredo Mariotti
Piero Bellugi,
Chor der Staatsoper BerlinRundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
CD: Acanta
Cat: LC 4883
1993 Cecilia Bartoli,
Fernanda Costa,
Gloria Banditelli,
William Matteuzzi,
Alessandro Corbelli,
Enzo Dara
Riccardo Chailly,
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna
CD: Decca Records
Cat: 436 909-2
1995 Cecilia Bartoli,
Laura Knoop,
Jill Grove,
Raúl Giménez,
Alessandro Corbelli,
Enzo Dara
Bruno Campanella,
Houston Grand Opera and Chorus – Houston Symphony
(Video recording of a live performance from the Wortham Theater Center, Houston, Texas, November)
DVD: Decca
Cat: 071 444-9
1995 Jennifer Larmore,
Adelini Scarabelli,
Laura Polverelli,
Raúl Giménez,
Gino Quilico
Alessandro Corbelli
Carlo Rizzi,
Royal Opera House Orchestra and Covent Garden Opera Chorus
CD: Teldec
Cat: LC 6019
1996 Jennifer Larmore,
Jeannette Fischer,
Claire Larcher,
Rockwell Blake,
Alessandro Corbelli,
Carlos Chausson
Maurizio Benini,
L'Opéra National de Paris Orchestra and Chorus
(Video recording of a performance in the Palais Garnier, Paris, April)
DVD: Encore
Cat: DVD 3265
2004 Joyce DiDonato,
Patrizia Cigna,
Martina Borst,
José Manuel Zapata,
Paolo Bordogna,
Bruno Praticò
Alberto Zedda,
Orchester des Südwestfunks Kaiserslautern and Prague Chamber Chorus
(Recording of a performance at the Wildbad Festival, 13 November)
CD: Naxos
Cat: 8.660191-92
2007 Joyce DiDonato,
Cristina Obregón,
Itxaro Mentxaka,
Juan Diego Flórez,
David Menéndez,
Bruno De Simone
Patrick Summers,
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Liceu (Barcelona)
(Video recording of a performance (or of performances) in the Teatro Liceo, Barcelona, December)
DVD: Decca
Cat: 074 3305 and 074 3333 (Blu-ray)
2009 Elīna Garanča,
Rachelle Durkin,
Patricia Risley,
Lawrence Brownlee,
Simone Alberghini,
Alessandro Corbelli
Maurizio Benini,
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
(Audio and video recordings made at a performance (or at performances) at the Met, May)
CD: Celestial Audio
Cat: CA 908;
Cat: 073 4777



  1. Osborne, Richard 1986, p. 37: "The prima on 25 January 1817 was full of mishaps and was noisily received"
  2. Blog da Rua Nove: La Cenerentola, Cinderella, A Gata Borralheira (in Portuguese)
  3. "Opera Statistics for the 2008/09 to 2012/13 seasons show 137 performances.". Operabase. Retrieved 14 December 2013.
  4. for a more detailed synopsis see John W. Freeman, Stories of the Operas: La Cenerentola, New York Metropolitan Opera
  5. Recordings of La centerentola on


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