Go inside this production of Cinderella with engaging articles, notes from the director, a complete plot synopsis, artist bios, and more.
Scene 1. Don Magnifico’s daughters, Clorinda and Tisbe, preen themselves while their stepsister Angelina (a.k.a. Cinderella) consoles herself with a plaintive song about love (Canzonetta: Una volta c'era un re). It infuriates the sisters, whose threats are cut short by the arrival of Alidoro, court philosopher to the prince, Don Ramiro. Alidoro is searching for a suitable fiancée for the prince. At this moment he is disguised as a beggar, and is consequently very rudely treated by the sisters. Cinderella, on the other hand, kindly offers him a crust of bread.
The prince’s retainers arrive to announce that Ramiro himself will appear shortly to invite Don Magnifico and his daughters to a ball, at which he will choose the most beautiful girl present as his bride. Clorinda and Tisbe are beside themselves with excitement, and each frantically calls for the assistance of the increasingly harried Cinderella (Ensemble: Cenerentola, vien qua).
Having just awakened, Don Magnifico tells his daughters of a dream he has just had, which he interprets as a prediction of sudden improvement in the family’s fortunes (Cavatina: Miei rampolli femminini). Told of the prince’s impending visit, he is elated and hurries his daughters to make themselves ready.
Ramiro enters stealthily, having disguised himself as his own valet, Dandini. When the prince suddenly sees Cinderella, each falls in love with the other at first sight (Duet: Un soave non so che).
Dandini arrives, dressed as the prince (Cavatina: Come un ape ne’ giorni d’aprile). He pays court to Clorinda and Tisbe, offering them an invitation to the ball. Cinderella begs her stepfather to be allowed to attend as well, but Don Magnifico is deaf to her pleas. Alidoro enters, now in his normal attire, and demands to see Don Magnifico’s third daughter. Magnifico pretends that she is dead, and all express their confusion (Quintet: Nel volto estatico). Once the others have left for the palace and Alidoro is alone with Cinderella, he assures her that she will attend the ball (Aria: Là del ciel nel arcano profondo).
Scene 2. At the palace, still masquerading as the prince, Dandini appoints a new chief Master of the Cellar: Don Magnifico, who proceeds to celebrate with great gusto (Aria with Chorus: Conciosiacosaché trenta botti... Intendente! Direttor! Presidente! Cantinier!).
Meanwhile, Dandini confers with Ramiro, painting a very unflattering portrait of the deportment and character of Clorinda and Tisbe. The two girls pursue Dandini (Quartet: Principino, dove siete?). Still disguised as the prince, he finally declares that he can marry only one of them, and that the other should wed his valet. Both are indignant at the suggestion. Alidoro enters to announce the arrival of an unknown veiled lady. When she is persuaded to show her face, Clorinda and Tisbe are struck by her resemblance to Cinderella (Sextet: Parlar – pensar – vorrei). So is Don Magnifico when he appears, still recovering from his carousing in the wine cellar. Dandini invites everyone to partake of a spectacular banquet (Finale: Mi par d’essere sognando).
Scene 1. Don Magnifico is convinced that Clorinda and Tisbe will enjoy a future of riches and triumph. Admonishing them not to forget him, he fantasizes on the privileges he will enjoy as the father of a princess (Aria: Sia qualunque delle figlie).
Ramiro, who has fallen in love with the mysterious lady, suspects that Dandini entertains similar feelings for her. Concealing himself, he overhears the faux prince proposing marriage to Cinderella. She refuses, confessing that she is already in love with his valet. Ramiro comes forth and himself proposes to Cinderella. She tells him that before she will marry him, he must discover her identity. Before leaving, she gives him one of a pair of bracelets she is wearing so that he may recognize her. Ramiro enlists his courtiers’ aid as he embarks on his search for the unknown beauty (Aria: Sì, ritrovarla io giuro).
Don Magnifico presses Dandini for a decision as to which daughter he has chosen to marry. The father is infuriated when the valet reveals that he is not the prince at all (Duet: Un segreto d’importanza).
Scene 2. Don Magnifico, Clorinda, and Tisbe return home to find Cinderella awaiting their arrival. After a storm has come and gone, Ramiro and Dandini appear. Once the prince finds Cinderella and the second bracelet, he announces his intention to marry the girl, to the astonishment of Don Magnifico and his daughters (Sextet: Questo è un nodo avviluppato).
Scene 3. Cinderella forgives her stepfather and stepsisters, and happily proclaims that no longer will she sit sadly by the ashes (Rondo Finale: Nacqui all’affanno…Non più mesta).
Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Cinderella) is one of the wittiest and most entertaining of all comic operas. It’s based on one of the world’s most famous fairytales, but it has its own take on it, with an array of memorable characters. As you’ll hear, it’s also exceptionally challenging to sing, since Rossini has given his performers very florid, acrobatic music requiring the ultimate in virtuosity.
I know you’ll be captivated by Joan Font’s spectacularly imaginative vision of Cinderella. Forty-four years ago in Barcelona this brilliant director founded a company called Els Comediants, of which he remains director today. The company started out presenting street theater, but for more than 15 years it has specialized in opera. Joan’s take on Cinderella is entirely true to this story’s fairytale roots – traditionally witty and fantastical, but also very zany. Among the characters he has created is a delightful group of rats who are Cinderella’s closest friends, offering her assistance and accompanying her wherever she goes.
On the podium for this production is our remarkable music director, Sir Andrew Davis. Whenever he and I discuss what would be most interesting for him to conduct, I’m used to his mentioning works of Mozart, Wagner, Strauss, Berg, or Britten. His enthusiasm for Rossini’s Cinderella took me by surprise! On the other hand, I’ve been aware for years of his love for Rossini’s music and his successes in other Rossini works. It will be a treat for all of us to hear Sir Andrew conduct a Rossini work at Lyric for the first time. He’ll bring to it tremendous exhilaration, as well as the musicality that distinguishes all of his performances.
Returning to us in the title role is American mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, gifted with a wonderful voice and tremendous stage presence. She’s rapidly making Cinderella her own in major opera houses. Isabel made a sensational debut with us two seasons ago in another Rossini comedy, The Barber of Seville, in which her portrayal of Rosina both sparkled and touched the heart. We need to fall in love with Cinderella, to be moved by her plight, and to want her to succeed. Isabel is a performer who can convey all this, bringing the character vividly and unforgettably to life.
This opera’s tenor role brings to mind what I’ve always found one of the most exciting moments in Rossini – Prince Ramiro’s aria, revealing his newfound passion for Cinderella. It’s very elaborate, with a soulful middle section and a spectacular conclusion, with repeated high Cs. Singing it at Lyric will be one of today’s finest bel canto singers, Lawrence Brownlee, whose artistry I’ve long admired. I’m thrilled that we’ll be welcoming him to Lyric for his eagerly awaited debut. He’s made a specialty of Rossini internationally, and possesses all the lyricism and agility to make him the perfect Ramiro.
For Cinderella it can be particularly valuable to have artists performing in their native tongue – above all, for the two characters to whom Rossini gave incredibly fast, fiendishly difficult patter songs (the pair also unite for a hilarious, showstopping duet). We’re exceedingly fortunate to have two marvelous Italian singers in these roles. Our Don Magnifico is Alessandro Corbelli, a great Lyric favorite and the most distinguished comic baritone in the world. As Dandini we have the vibrant young bass-baritone Vito Priante, who will be debuting with us. Each of these artists will be both immensely authoritative and pricelessly funny singing – and acting – Rossini’s endlessly exhilarating music.
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