Spotlight on: CINDERELLA

Cinderella

At Seattle Opera October 2019

Music by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Jacopo Ferretti

The Story

Long Story Short

Cinderella—with some subtle differences.

Who’s Who?

Cinderella is also known as Cenerentola in Italian.

Don Magnifico is a buffoonish minor aristocrat who has squandered his stepdaughter’s inheritance.

Clorinda and Tisbe are Cinderella’s vain, pretentious stepsisters.

Don Ramiro is a love-struck tenor with a voice like honey.

Dandini is Ramiro's clever, mischievous servant.

Alidoro is the Prince’s wise old tutor.

Watch the Trailer

Cinderella 101 Podcast

Where’d They Get This Story?

Cinderella is one of the world’s oldest and most well-traveled fairy tales, and pretty much every culture has its own version of the story. (Check out the Chinese, Algonquin, and ancient Egyptian versions!) Rossini and his librettist Jacopo Ferretti followed neither the Brothers Grimm Achenputtel (in which the evil stepsisters mutilate their own feet to fit into Cinderella’s slim little slipper) nor the Charles Perrault Cendrillon (inspiration for Disney’s 1950 film). Rossini didn’t like stories with supernatural elements, so there’s no magic in Ferretti’s operatic Cinderella—just lots of disguises and mistaken identities. In place of the traditional evil stepmother, the heroine is abused by the vile Don Magnifico. And instead of a fairy godmother, her helper is the prince’s benevolent teacher. And instead of dainty little glass slippers, here the recognition is effected thanks to a matching pair of bracelets. (Not because Rossini & Co. disapproved of impossibly idealized images of femininity; rather, they weren’t allowed to show a woman’s bare leg onstage.)

Where, When, & Why Was this Opera Written?

Gioachino Rossini churned out delightfully tuneful operas by the fistful in the 1810s and `20s, before his sudden and unexpected retirement at age 39. His Barber of Seville had survived a rough opening at one opera house in Rome early in 1816 to become a big hit. Another Roman theater was pressuring Rossini for a new opera for 1817 which (like The Barber of Seville) would star Rossini’s childhood friend, contralto Geltrude Righetti-Giorgi. Librettist Jacopo Ferretti not only suggested the Cinderella story to Rossini, he pulled an all-nighter on Christmas Eve to start writing the libretto. The 25-year-old Rossini managed to compose the opera in three weeks, and it premiered on January 25, 1817.

Which fairy tales have inspired opera?

Opera isn’t the world’s most realistic art form; it’s a great way to tell stories full of magic and impossibilities, such as myths, legends, and fairy tales. In addition to Cinderella, operas by Rossini and Massenet, opera fans may encounter fairy tale elements in such operas as Rusalka (The Little Mermaid), Die Walk├╝re (The Sword in the Stone and Sleeping Beauty), Siegfried (The Story of a Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear), Hansel and Gretel, and loads of great Russian operas.

Listen to the Music

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