Opera Inside, Cenerentola. Rossini, Handlung, Synopsis

The online opera guide to LA CENERENTOLA

Rossinis wrote a rousing opera in just 24 days. Each of the numbers of this opera is a great piece, especially the ensemble scenes are of the greatest mastery.



Overview and quick access






♪ Act I

♪ Act II

Recording Recommendation


Tutto e un deserto…un soave non so che

Signora una parola… nel volto estatico

Si ritrovarla io giuro

Questo e un nodo avviluppato

Nacqui all affano … non piu mesta






Roles and Synopsis








Rome, 1817


Giacomo Ferretti, based on Charles Perrault's Cendrillon.

The main roles

Don Ramiro, Prince of Salerno (tenor) - Dandini, his valet (bass) - Don Magnifico, Baron of Monte Fiascone (bass) - Clorinda, Tisbe, his daughters (mezzo-soprano) / (soprano) - Cenerentola, his stepdaughter (mezzo-soprano) - Alidoro, philosopher, Don Ramiro's advisor (bass)

Recording recommendation

DG with Teresa Berganza, Luigi Alva, Paolo Montarsolo conducted by Claudio Abbado with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Scottish Opera Chorus or DECCA with Cecilia Bartoli, William Matteuzzi, Enzo Dara conducted by Riccardo Chailly and the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna.







When Rossini wrote the Cenerentola, he was 25 years old and it was already his twentieth opera. He was a famous man all over Europe and his greatest success, the Barbiere di Siviglia, was not yet two years old. In the so-called impresario system, the composers of that time were forced to write a lot. After the one-time sale of their work to the theater impresario, they no longer had any exploitation rights and had to write new operas on an ongoing basis to generate income.
When composing the Cenerentola, Rossini had to improvise once again due to time constraints. As a prelude he took his old overture from the opera “La gazza ladra”, recitatives and three pieces were written by Luca Agolini. Rossini later added to the work and today the work is performed without Agolini’s pieces.
The premiere took place in Rome in 1817. The resonance at the beginning was moderate. After a few weeks, the success set in and in the following years it became even more successful than the Barber.



Giacomo Ferretti, the librettist, wrote in his memoirs how it came to the choice of the story of Cenerentola. Two days before Christmas a censor had rejected their planned subject and now Rossini, Ferretti and the impresario Barbaja sat together to choose a new subject. Ferretti had prepared a list of 20 themes, but none of them were financially or artistically suitable. Ferretti: “I got tired of making suggestions and was half asleep in the middle of yawning: Cinderella. Rossini, who had climbed into bed to be able to think better, sat up as straight as Aligheris Farinata. “Would you have the courage to write me a Cinderella? I, for my part, asked him: Would you have the courage to compose it?’ He: ‘When can I have a draft? I: ‘If I don’t fall asleep tomorrow morning.’ Rossini: “Good night! He wrapped himself in his blanket, stretched out his limbs and, like the gods in Homer, fell asleep peacefully. I drank another glass of tea, agreed to the price and ran home. There good mocha replaced the Jamaica tea. I walked back and forth in my bedroom with my arms crossed and criss-crossed, and when God willed it and I saw the picture in front of me, I wrote down the draft for La Cenerentola. The next day I sent it to Rossini. He was pleased with it.” (source: Wikipedia).
Giacomo Ferretti took Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon as a basis (which was written 150 years before the Brother Grimm’s version) and partly changed the staff (for example, the wicked stepmother became an impoverished gentry family) and removed everything magical.
Rossini and Ferretti called the work a “dramma giocoso”. For them, Cenerentola was a comedy, but it was also supposed to hold a moral. This appears in the characters of Cenerentola and Alidoro. Cenerentola because in the end she is ready to forgive, and Alidoro because he helps a regent to become an enlightened monarch. Nota bene: at the time of composition we are in the post-Napolitan era and the theme of the Restoration is highly topical two years after the Congress of Vienna.










Synopsis: In the dilapidated manor of Don Magnifico. The sisters Clorinda and Tisbe admire themselves for their irresistible charm.

Listen to the opening scene in a version by Jean-Pierre Ponelle in a stylish production which is almost in black and white.

No, no, non v’è – Guglielmi / Zannini


Cenerentola’s sad life

Synopsis: Their stepsister Cinderella has to do all the work. She is in the kitchen singing the song of the king’s son, who is looking for a woman and had the choic of three at a time. He chose not pride, not beauty, but the one with the good heart. The sisters threaten her with beatings if she doesn’t stop with the song. A beggar knocks on the door. The sisters want to chase him away. Cenerentola feels pity and secretly gives him coffee. In reality it is Alidoro the wise advisor of Don Ramiro. He has the task of researching the character of those who are willing to marry.

This piece is untypical for Rossini. To present the Cenerentola as a modest girl, he lets her sing a piece completely without ornaments. The minor key shows the sad life of the Cenerentola as domestic servant of the tyrannical sisters.

Una volta c’era un re – Ganassi


The prince announces his coming

Synopsis: Don Ramiro’s envoys have arrived at the manor. They invite the sisters to the castle the same evening. This evening he wants to choose the most beautiful as  his bride, the emissaries announce that he will visit themin a few moments. Hectic is spreading among the sisters, and they desperately chase Cenerentola back and forth to get prepared for the evening.

O figlie amabili



Don Magnifico sees his salvation

Synopsis: The sisters wake their father. He has just dreamed that his daughters will marry princes and that he will become ancestor of an illustrious family and, a desirable side effect: they would polish up his dilapidated finances.

Magnifico is a classic Buffo role. Montarsolo was an outstanding actor. His Don Magnifico was magnifico and the crescendo of this piece is magnifico too.

Miei rampolli femminini  –  Montarsolo/Abbado



Love at first sight – the duet of Ramiro and Cenerentola

Synopsis: Ramiro appears. The prince is disguised as a simple valet. No one is there. Cinderella enters the room. The two look at each other and feel strangely attracted to each other. Ramiro wants to meet the daughters of the house. They appear and again chase Cenerentola.

Also this appearance of Cenerentola is calm.  Her duet with Don Ramiro is by Rossnian standards almost quiet. The final stretta of the duet is sung magically by the two singers.

Tutto e un deserto…un soave non so che  –  von Stade / Araiza



The false prince appears

Synopsis: Don Magnifico appears and the valet alias Don Ramiro announces the arrival of the prince. Dandini, his valet, has disguised himself as a prince. Dandini appears with his court. He pays the two exaggerated compliments and Don Magnifico already sees himself as the winner.

You will see another excerpt from Jean Pierre Ponelle’s comedic adaptation. Ponnelle was a workaholic and produced over 300 opera productions in 25 years. His death was tragic, he fell into the orchestra pit during rehearsals and died a few weeks later of heart failure.

Come un’ape ne’ giorni d’aprile  –  Desderi



Synopsis: Cinderella would also like to go to the castle in the evening and asks Don Magnifico for permission. He wants to chastise Cenerentola for the presumptuous request, but Ramiro and Dandini intervene. Magnifico explains that she is only an ordinary maid. Alidoro appears in his role as minister. He has a list in his hand stating that 3 daughters live in the household. Don Magnifico claims that the third daughter died. When Cenerentola wants to reply, Magnifico forbids her to speak. So all but Cenerentola make their way to the castle.

In this recording you first hear the virtuoso coloraturas of Cecilia Bartoli, this great exceptional artist. Then the beautiful quintet “nel volto estatico” (6:30) unwinds. The quintet begins with a canon, and then changes into a beautiful contrapuntal quintet, which is first sung out very melodiously and then becomes more and more chaotic until total confusion is taking over.

Signora una parola (Quintett) – Bartoli / Dara / Corbelli / Mateuzzi


Synopsis: Alidoro returns to Cenerentola and invites her to the castle. Everything will turn to the best for her today.

This aria is incredibly virtuoso and difficult. Rossini did not set it until a year after the premiere, possibly because the singer of the premiere was not technically versed enough.

Alidoro is a product of the zeitgeist, he is a philosopher committed to Enlightment. The Congress of Vienna, which ended a few years earlier, restored the prerogatives of the nobility after the French Revolution. Thus Ramiro is an enlightened prince, in contrast to the spirit of the times, which got more autocratic again. This opera, as we know it from Mozart’s Buffo operas, is about a social theme, it is a ambiguous comedy.

La del ciel nell’arcano profondo  –  Pisaroni



Magnifico in the wine cellar

Synopsis: In the castle of Don Ramiro. Dandini is still playing the prince and chatting with the sisters on behalf of Ramiro to check them for  Ramiro. But they don’t know anything better than to be bitchy in front of Dandini. Meanwhile, Don Magnifico has arrived in the wine cellar, where he dreams of becoming a princely cellar master.

Enzo Dara was a great buffo bass. While Montarsolo was a formidable actor next to his good voice, Dara had the virtuoso humour in his voice. His fast  sung syllables, the Presto-Sillabato, were legends.

Conciosiacosacche  –  Dara



The two sisters are gambling their cards away

Synopsis: Meanwhile Dandini gives Ramiro  a report about the sisters, whom he calls “arrogance” and “vanity”. Ramiro is desperate, none of them is eligible, although Alidoro had told him about a charming girl. Clorinda and Tisbe finally find the prince. Dandini tells them that he can’t marry two at the same time. So the other would have to marry the valet, which the two reject with indignation.

Juan Diego Florez is the great Rossini tenor of our time. In his fach, Juan Diego is the best tenor in the world. He may even be the best Rossini tenor since the World War II.

Zitto, Zitto  –  Florez / Corbelli



The mysterious woman appears

Synopsis: Alidoro shows up. He is accompanied by a mysterious, veiled woman. The two sisters are upset about the new competition. When she lifts the veil, there is general amazement, one because they are delighted by the beauty and the two sisters because they believe to recognize Cenerentola.

Another Concertato scene. Time stands still and the whole ensemble sings a beautifully ornamented quintet.

Parlar, pensar, vorrei.



Synopsis: Also Don Magnifico, who just comes from the wine cellar is dumbfounded. Dinners is served and all have eyes only for the delicacies, except Ramiro and Cenerentola which are in seventh heaven.

And another crescendo. Rossini was the king of the Crescendi. Musicologists ennobled the composer with the technical term “Rossini crescendo”. The piece begins inconspicuously and gradually gains intensity and culminates in a grand stretta. The melody with the crescendo becomes more and more tight, which triggers an enormous pull effect.

Watch it in an funny excerpt from the Ponnelle film adaptation.

Signor … Altezza in tavola .. Mir par d’esser sognando – Abbado










Synopsis: Magnifico is in his room with his daughters. He reminds the two, whoever becomes Princess, not to forget him.

Corbelli was also a master of Presto-Sillabato. See him from a live recording of the Met.

Sia qualunque delle figlie  –  Corbelli


Cenerentola hands over a bracelet to Ramiro – the virtuoso aria  “si ritrovarlo giuro”

Synopsis: Dandini is now also interested in Cenerentola. But she rejects his advances, she is in love with his valet. Ramiro, who overhears them, rushes out overjoyed and proposes to her.  But Cenerentola gives him a task. She hands him over a bracelet and leaves the castle and asks him to look for her who is wearing the other piece of jewellery. So he will find her and see who she is and where she lives. Ramiro order to get the carriage ready so that he can start searching right away.

See and hear Juan Diego Flores in a legendary encore on the Met (which is rarely allowed). The aria is spectacular: it is peppered with difficult runs and high Cs.

Si ritrovarla io giuro  –  Florez



Dandini chases Magnifico away – meeting of comedians

Synopsis: Magnifico wants to know from Dandini when the choice will be made. Dandini says that decision has been made and he asks Magnifico what lifestyle the chosen one should have. Magnifico describes extreme waste. Dandini identifies himself as a valet and chases Don Magnifico away, who must realize the deception.

Watch a hilarious staging form the paris opera.

Un segreto d’importanza  –  Spagnoli / Corbelli


Synopsis: Cinderella’s back in the house. Magnifico returns with his daughters. They take their anger out on Cenerentola. A thunderstorm comes up.

Rossini had a weakness for thunderstorm music, so you hear a lot of lightning and thunder from the orchestra pit.

Storm music


Ramiro shows up – a great concertato

Synopsis:  The axle of the carriage Ramiros is broken. Chance has it that this happens near the castle of Don Magnifico and so he seeks refuge together with Dandini. When Magnifico learns that Ramiro has shown up, he again hopes to fix a marriage with one of his daughters.  Cenerentola has to bring him a chair and Ramiro recognizes the bracelet on her hand. The unknown beauty is found. Everyone is amazed that it is Cenerentola.

Rossini certainly had a smile on his lips when he composed this sextet. He plays with the consonants grr, trr, rr to reinforce the feeling of amazement that follows the revelation of Cinderella. This concertato, a standstill, is one of the famous passages of this opera.

Claudio Abbado staged a groundbreaking recording of the Cenerentola in 1971 with the director Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and the music historian Zedda. The singers around Teresa Berganza thus triggered a renaissance of this opera.

Questo e un nodo avviluppato (Sestetto)  –  Abbado/Alva/Berganza

A happy end with the famous  aria “non piu mesta”

Synopsis: The sisters excoriate Cenerentola and Don Ramiro wants to remind the prince of his daughters. Ramiro rejects him mockingly and the three have to watch stunned as the Prince takes Cenerentola to the castle.  Cenerentola can’t believe her luck when she arrives at the prince’s castle. She wants to forgive her stepfather and his sisters and offers them forgiveness. She embraces her relatives and everyone is moved by her generosity.

Rossini certainly had a smile on his lips when he composed this sextet. He plays with the consonants grr, trr, rr to reinforce the feeling of amazement that follows the revelation of Cinderella. This concertato, a standstill, is one of the famous passages of this opera.

Claudio Abbado staged a groundbreaking recording of the Cenerentola in 1971 with the director Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and the music historian Zedda. The singers around Teresa Berganza thus triggered a renaissance of this opera.

Cecilia Bartoli’s interpretation sparkles with her joy of singing. Apparently effortlessly she sings her way through this aria. For many Cecilia is the best Cenerentola on CD.

Nacqui all affano … non piu mesta  –  Bartoli


Teresa Berganza stood at the beginning of the Cenerentola Revival. Her Cenerentola of the sixties / seventies led to the rediscovery of this opera and today it belongs to the top 30 most performed operas.

Nacqui all affano … non piu mesta  –  Berganza


Conchita Supervia was a spaniard like Teresa Berganza and was responsible for a great revival of Rossini in the 1920s. Her voice with the fast vibrato is very memorable and her interpretation is enchanting, even if her coloraturas do not come close to those of Berganza or Bartoli.

Nacqui all affano … non piu mesta  –  Supervia


Nacqui all affano … non piu mesta  – DiDonato

Joyce DiDonato has made a name for herself with this role. The American is doing great masterclasses. Watch one she has done with that aria (see further below).


Masterclass  –  DiDonato







Recording Recommendation


DG with Teresa Berganza, Luigi Alva, Paolo Montarsolo under the direction of Claudio Abbado with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Scottish opera chorus.


DECCA with Cecilia Bartoli, William Matteuzzi, Enzo Dara under the direction of Riccardo Chailly and the orchestra e coro del teatro comunale di Bologna.




Peter Lutz, opera-inside, the online opera guide to LA CENERENTOLA by Gioacchino Rossini.







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