Sunday, June 22, 2008

La Cenerentola: The Real Cinderella

June 9, 2008

At the opposite end of the spectrum, is the more classically European “La Cenerentola” Gioacchino Rossini’s follow-up to “The Barber of Seville.” Before Charles Perrault (the father of the literary genre, fairy tales) sprinkled it with a fairy godmother, a pumpkin carriage, singing mice, and a pair of glass slippers then Disney cliché it, Cinderella or Cenerentola was distilled into its bare essence of abused girl being pushed around by her narcissistic stepsisters and step-parent. Instead of a hag of a stepmother, it’s a wrinkly, greedy, but financially-strapped step-father, Don Magnifico, desperate to unload his frumpy daughters onto wealthy husbands. He views Cenerentola/Cinderella as an unwanted excess. A scholarly royal tutor, Alidoro, is the fairy godfather. The pair of glass slippers is replaced with a pair of simple but elegant bracelets.

In Rossini’s hands, he took a sweet, simple fairy tale and turns it into a farce of double identity, wacky enough for the Marx Brothers. Instead of a prince magically appearing at the end of the tale, we got a picky royal, Prince Ramiro, shopping for that particular wife who will love him for him, not the title and the money. “The fairest in the land” is a woman with a kind heart.

A couple of trials were sent to Don Magnifico’s home. First, Alidoro came disguised as a beggar to test the family’s generosity. Only Cenerentola took pity on him and fed him bread and coffee. When he told Ramiro about her kindness, the Prince wants to know more about her. So, he sent in another test. He sent his servant/butler, Dandini, as him and Ramiro disguise himself as Dandini, successfully fooling the greedy Don Magnifico’s family. The dumpy stepsisters thought they hit the lottery with Dandini and he had a hoot playing the prince. While the girls chased after the servant, Ramiro meets Cenerentola and talks to her. Appalled by Don’s harsh treatment, Ramiro asked Alidoro how to get her out of that house.

While Dandini plays and teases with the girls at the palace, Alidoro snuck Cenerentola out of the run-down house. Don gets drunk in the royal cellar. When the ball started, people were awestruck by this beautiful, mysterious, veiled stranger. It’s Cenerentola! She’s so cleaned up and coiffed that not even her own family recognized her. They viewed her as threat.

The next day, Prince Ramiro and Servant Dandini arrive to the Don Magnifico’s household, revealing their true identity. Angry, they accused the royal entourage for misleading them. Without a thought, Prince asked Cenerentola to marry him.

At her wedding, she asked Prince to forgive her crude family. Touched by her charity, he forgives his in-laws. Don Magnifico rejoices as part of the royal family household.
Due to the lack of theater space, the opera had to employ a huge video screen projecting moving montages to change the background and scenery. Even in this traditional opera, multi-media was used as twentieth-century efficiency.

This silly, lighted-comedy was a good time for all.

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