La Cenerentola - Gioachino Rossini - Mark Elder - Royal Opera House - Covent Garden
On 13 March 2001 I was accompanied
by Francesca's lovely friend Alex,
we went to the ROH to see Rossini's
comic opera La Cenerentola (Cinderella)
first performed in Rome in 1817, based
on Perrault's fairy-tale with libretto
by Jacopo Ferretti. The conductor
was Mark Elder. Alex commented that
the ROH was beautiful but that it
could hardly compare to the Teatro
Massimo in Palermo's magnificence
Angelina, known as Cenerentola (Cinderella)]
is the step-daughter of Don Magnifico,
Baron Monte Fiascone. She lives with
him and his two daughters, Carolina
and Tisbe. They treat her harshly
and expect her to wait on them (as
she goes about her chores she sings
of her wish for love "Una volta
c'eraun re"). The Prince, Don
Ramiro, comes to the house disguised
as his valet Dandini who sings an
amusing cavatina Come un'arpe ne'giorni
d'aprile ("Like a bee on an April
day"). He and Cenerentola fall
in love. Don Magnifico refuses to
allow Cenerentola to go to the Prince's
Ball but Alidoro, the all-powerful
Prince's tutor and philosopher, intervenes
on Cenerentola's behalf. He introduces
her at the Ball as an unknown lady.
Don Ramiro, still in disguise, asks
her to marry him, but she says he
must first discover who she really
is. She gives him her bracelet. She
will wear a matching one so he will
know her. He sings an aria of his
love and is determined to discover
the object of his affection. He swears
to find her at all costs. The aria
is a brilliant showpiece for a competent
tenor. The Prince, helped by Alidoro,
finds her and makes her and his bride.
(Earlier he asks Dandini what impressions
he has of the character of Baron's
two elder daughters: "Zito, zito,
piano, piano", Dandini replies.
Other operas on the same subject include
Massenet's Cendrillon (1899) and Wolf-Ferrar's
Cenerentola (1900). Prokofiev's ballet
dates from 1945.
Clorinda was performed by Nicole Tibbles;
Tisbe by Leah-Marion Jones; Angelina
(Cenerentola) by Sophie Koch; Alidoro
by Lorenzo Rehazzo; Don Magnifico
by Bruno Practico; Don Ramiro (Prince
of Salerno) by Kenneth Taver and Dandini
(his valet by) by Lucio Gallo.
Another version is the pantomime Cinderella
(or "Cindres" as it is sometimes
called) can be seen at many theatres
and there is always one production
on somewhere at Christmas. The pantomime
version is specifically staged for
children. It's the most enchanting
of the Christmas pantomimes (or "pantos"
as they are often called). In the
pantomime version Cinderella's two
step-sisters are actually the Ugly
Sisters and the roles are usually
played by men. There is usually a
Wicked Stepmother. Dandini, the valet,
is usually known as "Buttons"
and is a role for a comedian. There
is also a Fairy Godmother (who would
be Alidoro in the opera) who tells
Cinderella that because she has been
good "You shall go to the Ball".
A glass slipper traditionally replaces
the bracelet. The coach and the ponies
are the highlight of the pantomime.
The fairy Godmother waves her magic
wand and the pumpkin turns into the
coach. Cinderella, her rags now replaced
by a shimmering down, steps into the
coach and off she goes to the ball.
Ah. . . . . not a dry eye in the house!!
She has to leave the Ball by midnight
- when the clock strikes twelve- and
in her rush to leave she loses one
of her glass slippers which the Prince
finds and he goes everywhere seeking
young ladies whom the slipper might
fit. Cinderella's Ugly Sisters try
to force the slipper on. They are
furious when they find it is Cinderella's
foot that the slipper fits. Cinderella
and her Prince are reunited and, as
they say in fairy-tales, "they
lived happily ever after". [In
earlier years it was traditional for
the Prince to be played by a woman
- don't ask me why - but now the Prince
is usually played, as he should be,
by a man. ]
Pantomimes are a great favourite for
children of all ages!!! They all "hiss
and boo" at the "baddies"
and cheer for the "goodies".
It was wonderful to be accompanied
by Alex because he is a wonderful
and handsome man. I was feeling young
and gorgeous with this beautiful tall
Sicilian man next to me. He was so
sweet and offered me champagne and
a salmon sandwich during the interval.
It's a pity that he did not turn out
to be Francesca's prince for I would
have loved for him to be my son-in-law!