Two takes on Cinderella: Disney versus Rossini

by Rex Levang, Minnesota Public Radio
May 10, 2014
Joyce DiDonato as Angelina in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Rachelle Durkin as Clorinda, Alessandro Corbelli as Don Magnifico, and Patricia Risley as Tisbe in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Joyce DiDonato as Angelina and Rachelle Durkin as Clorinda in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Patricia Risley as Tisbe, Rachelle Durkin as Clorinda, and Alessandro Corbelli as Don Magnifico in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Rachelle Durkin as Clorinda, Pietro Spagnoli as Dandini, and Patricia Risley as Tisbe in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) A scene from Rossini's "La Cenerentola" with Joyce DiDonato as Angelina. (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) A scene from Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Joyce DiDonato as Angelina in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Luca Pisaroni as Alidoro, Pietro Spagnoli as Dandini, Joyce DiDonato as Angelina in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Rachelle Durkin as Clorinda, Joyce DiDonato as Angelina, and Patricia Risley as Tisbe in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Alessandro Corbelli as Don Magnifico in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Pietro Spagnoli as Dandini, Joyce DiDonato as Angelina, Rachelle Durkin as Clorinda, and Patricia Risley as Tisbe in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Juan Diego Florez as Don Ramiro, Joyce DiDonato as Angelina, and Pietro Spagnoli as Dandini in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Juan Diego Florez as Don Ramiro and Joyce DiDonato as Angelina in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Juan Diego Florez as Don Ramiro in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Pietro Spagnoli as Dandini and Juan Diego Florez as Don Ramiro in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Joyce DiDonato as Angelina and Juan Diego Florez as Don Ramiro in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Juan Diego Florez as Don Ramiro and Joyce DiDonato as Angelina in Rossini's "La Cenerentola. (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Juan Diego Florez as Don Ramiro, Pietro Spagnoli as Dandini, Joyce DiDonato as Angelina, Alessandro Corbelli as Don Magnifico, Patricia Risley as Tisbe, and Rachelle Durkin as Clorinda in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) Joyce DiDonato as Angelina in Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) A scene from Rossini's "La Cenerentola." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)
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St. Paul, Minn. — What would be left of the Cinderella story if you took away the glass slippers, the pumpkin and the fairy godmother?

Quite a bit, it turns out. You'd still have some very dramatic material: a prince looking for a princess, a neglected girl, and some juicy sibling rivalry. If you view the slideshow of the opera above, you'll see photos that are clearly recognizable as the story of Cinderella.

That said, in La Cenerentola, Rossini's Cinderella opera, the supernatural parts of the fairy tale are nowhere to be found. (In fact, it's rare to find the supernatural in Italian opera — as opposed to German opera, where it can seem omnipresent.)

Instead of a fairy godmother, Cinderella is assisted by a wise philosopher. There's no magical transformation: no pumpkin turning into a carriage, or mice into horses — Cinderella simply appears at the ball, elegantly dressed. Instead of glass slippers, there are two matching bracelets.

There were also some new characters added to the story. The prince gets a valet. To add to the fun, prince and valet switch identities — Cinderella isn't the only one going around in disguise. And there's a part for a comic bass, giving Rossini a chance to write some of his trademark patter songs.

There's also one thing that is mentioned in the fairy tale but made very explicit in the opera. Why is Cinderella able to overcome all the hardships in her path? It's because of her kindness and decency — which we know from the opera's full title, La Cenerentola, ossia La Bonta in Trionfo — that is, " Cinderella, or Goodness Triumphant."

Joyce DiDonato has some additional insights on these differences. "They wanted to take away some of the magical elements and make it a bit more philosophical," DiDonato says. "The idea of fate is very big in this opera, as is forgiveness."

Listen to the audio above to hear more from DiDonato's interview with Classical MPR's Julie Amacher.

The Met Opera's production of La Cenerentola airs Saturday, May 10, at 12 noon, on Classical MPR.


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