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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 and grandeur.

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!

Wonderful night!!!

 

Verinha Ottoni.




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