Thursday, September 19, 2019

Rossini’s original Cinderella

Gertrude Righetti Giorgi (1793-1896) was a contralto and the first to sing the heroine in Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentona). According to Alto: The Voice of Bel Canto by Dan H. Marek, her voice was “full, powerful, and of rare extension, rising from F below the staff to B-flat above it.” Righetti Giorgi had a short career, retiring in 1822 because of ill health, but she created the leading roles in two of the immortal masterpieces of the Italian lyric stage: Rosina in The Barber of Seville and the title role in Cinderella, which premiered on January 25, 1817.

Righetti Giorgi was a spirited advocate for Rossini, and in turn, Rossini appreciated her ideas and strength of character. Righetti Giorgi in fact convinced Rossini to convert an aria that had been written for Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville into Cinderella’s famous celebration of forgiveness, “Non più mesta” (“No Longer Sad”).

Lindy Hume, Stage Director of Seattle Opera's upcoming Cinderella describes Rossini as a composer who was known to portray dimensional, interesting women:  

"At 21, Rossini had enjoyed a huge success with L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers), featuring a dynamic female lead, Isabella. She quite literally wipes the floor with several macho types, single-handedly frees all the Italian slaves, and sails off with her boyfriend to Italy. This is not a composer who is afraid of a strong woman. Unsurprisingly, Rossini's Cinderella is cheeky, strong-willed, adorable, but certainly no victim.”

Teatro Valle, one of the oldest theaters in Rome. Built in 1726, the theater reopened in 2018 after four years of restoration. Photos courtesy of corriere.it and teatrovalleoccupato.it.