La Cenerentola

Music by Gioacchino Rossini
Poster design by Bill Burgard

March 21 - 23 at 8 PM
March 24 at 2 PM
Mendelssohn Theatre

background | press release | synopsis | program | photographs

Background Information
Gioacchino Rossini
One of opera's most intriguing figures, Gioacchino Rossini, was born in Pesaro, Italy, on February 29, l792. His father, the town trumpeter, and his mother, a singer, encouraged their son's musical talents; from an early age, Gioacchino was an accomplished performer on the harpsichord, violin, and piano, as well as a boy soprano in the opera. He began his composing career with Demetrio e Polibio, which was first staged in 1812.

Rossini's first professional work was La Cambiale di Matrimonio (The Marriage Contract), a one-act opera buffa (comic opera) produced in Venice in 1810. During the next four years, Rossini composed several operas that were performed in Venice and Milan, and he began to earn a reputation as an inspired melodist. Of his works from this period only three are noteworthy: Tancredi, an opera seria (a formalized genre of serious opera), which established Rossini Žs fame outside of Italy; L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers), a sparkling comedy still frequently performed; and Il Turco in Italia (The Turk in Italy), an 1814 comedy.

Rossini next became music director of both opera houses in Naples. He wrote Elisabetta Regina d'Inghilterra (Elizabeth Queen of England) in 1815 for Isabella Colbran, a soprano he had met while a student in Bologna. Isabella went on to create the leading roles in several Rossini operas; in l824, she became Rossini's wife. Elisabetta marks the first time that Rossini's recitatives—the half-spoken, half-sung expository section of the opera—were accompanied by the strings and not simply the harpsichord.

In Rossini's Neapolitan operas, the composer's intentions came to be far more respected than in the past. The bel canto (beautiful singing) period in which he wrote was a time when singers improvised elaborate embellishments to display their technical virtuosity, often ornamenting the arias beyond recognition. By writing out the vocal decorations himself and insisting that the singers adhere to them, Rossini helped to contribute to the rise of the composer as the dominant musical personality. But even he could not completely curb his artists. The renowned soprano, Adelina Patti, once performed an aria from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia for the composer. "And how did you like the aria, maestro?" she asked. "A charming tune," replied Rossini dryly. "I wonder who wrote it?"

One of the commissions Rossini accepted during his tenure in Naples was for an opera entitled Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). There arose immediately an anti-Rossini faction made up of partisans of Il Barbiere di Siviglia of Giovanni Paisiello that had been a fixture of the operatic repertory for a generation. The opening night of the Rossini work in Rome was a disaster, due to the animosity of the crowd and several freak accidents: during the tenor's serenade, the strings of the onstage guitar broke; a cat wandered onto the set during the middle of the performance and upstaged everyone; and one of the singers fell down and was forced to sing with a bloody nose. Subsequent performances brought great acclaim. Today, with its tuneful score and mercurial story, Il Barbiere di Siviglia is the most popular comic opera in the world.

Rossini was notoriously lazy. He delayed completing his commissions until the last possible moment, and often "borrowed" music from his other operas to spare himself the labor of writing new material. The famous overture from Il Barbiere di Siviglia, for instance, had been previously attached to three different operas. Rossini also worked fast; Il Barbiere was dashed off in an incredible thirteen days. In all, his gift for melodic invention allowed him to produce an astounding thirty-nine operas in nineteen years.

Following the success of Il Barbiere, Rossini continued to compose prolifically. Otello (1816) contains some of his most beautiful music. La Cenerentola (1817), second only to Il Barbiere in popularity, is a hilarious Cinderella story. La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie, 1817) is best remembered for its sparkling overture. Mose in Egitto (Moses in Egypt, 1818) is described as "a tragic sacred drama". La Donna del Lago (The Lady of the Lake, 1819) has as its source a poem by Sir Walter Scott, and Semiramide (1823) is a huge-scale opera with much coloratura writing.

Rossini traveled extensively throughout Europe. Settling in Paris, he was appointed director of the Theatre Italien, as well as Composer to the King and Inspector General of Singing. The Paris Opera produced a number of his works, including Le Siege de Corinthe (The Siege of Corinth, 1826), a monumental spectacle, and his final opera, the magnificent Guillaume Tell (William Tell), in 1829. Guillaume Tell—whose spirited overture is familiar worldwide—is a seminal work in the history of French grand opera.

In 1829, at the age of thirty-seven and at the height of his popularity, Rossini retired from composing. The only works he produced thereafter were for his own enjoyment, including two religious pieces, the Stabat Mater (1842) and the Petite Messe Solonnelle (1864). A wealthy man, Rossini had no need to continue accepting commissions, and a life of self-indulgent leisure had always greatly appealed to him. Furthermore, he took a dim view of the new directions in which singing—and music in general—were heading; he felt that his style of opera belonged to a past generation.

For his remaining thirty-nine years, Rossini lived a life of indolence and pleasure. A celebrated gourmet and "bon vivant," he turned his home in Paris into one of the most glittering salons in all of Europe. He died on February 13, l868, still so prominent and respected that his death engendered numerous moving tributes.

biography courtesy New York City Opera

Press Release

ANN ARBOR — The University of Michigan School of Music Opera Theatre presents Gioacchino Rossini's beguiling comic opera" La Cenerentola." This popular adaptation of the Cinderella story plays March 21-23, 8:00 p.m. and March 24, 2:00 p.m. at the Mendelssohn Theatre in Ann Arbor. Guest artist Nicolette Molnár, who staged "The Turn of the Screw" for University Productions in 1998 and has helmed productions around the world, will direct.

"La Cenerentola" is appropriate for families. The show will be sung in Italian with English supertitles. Ticket prices are $20 and $15 reserved seating with students only $7 with ID. Tickets are available at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League on U-M Central Campus. The Ticket Office is open from 10am-6pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted.

Composed in 24 days, Rossini premiered his adaptation of Charles Perrault's classic fairy tale in Rome, 1817. Written with lyricist Jacopo Ferretti, the opera is based on Charles-Guillaume Étienne's libretto for "Cendrillon," an operatic treatment of Cinderella by Nicholas Isouard that was popular in Paris around 1810. "La Cenerentola" therefore differs from the Grimm- or Disney-popularized versions of the story. There is no fairy godmother, no pumpkin-coach, and no glass slipper ... it is a bracelet which guides the Prince to his love after the ball. Another difference is that Cenerentola has a stepfather – the impoverished Don Magnifico, Baron of Montefiascone – in place of the traditional stepmother. However, the two appalling stepsisters remain, as do the harsh and severe conditions under which the Cinderella character lives.

And, of course, the story ends with a happily ever after.

Rossini is known for the unsurpassed brilliance of his comic invention and both the melodiousness and floridity of his vocal writing." La Cenerentola" is no exception to these rules, in fact it emphasizes them. Written for coloratura contralto, the title role is incredibly difficult. Although attempts have been made to arrange the music for soprano, the opera generally has to wait until a low voice with phenomenal agility comes along. When it does, the ensemble numbers, for which Rossini is known, are ethereal.

Gioacchino Rossini was born in Pesaro, Italy, on February 29, l792. His parents were professional musicians who encouraged his musical gifts. He performed as a boy soprano in the opera and played the harpsichord, violin, and piano before turning to the cello and composition when he entered the Conservatory of Bologna.

Rossini composed chamber works at the age of 16 and completed his first professional composition, the opera "La Cambiale di Matrimonio," at age 18. Over the next four years he composed several operas before being appointed music director of both opera houses in Naples. It was then that Rossini began to take on a string of commissions. Included in these works is his "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" ("The Barber of Seville"), which has become the most popular comic opera in the world.

From the years 1810-1829, Rossini composed a total of 39 operas, including "Otello" (1815); "La Gazza Ladra" (1817); "Mose in Egitto" (1818); La Donna del Lago (1819); and "Semiramide" (1823). He then settled in Paris where he wrote several more pieces including his final opera, "Guillaume Tell." But in 1829, at the age of 37 and at the height of his popularity, Rossini retired from composing. He took a dim view of the new directions in which singing—and music in general—were heading; he felt that his style of opera belonged to a past generation.

The U-M performance of "La Cenerentola" features the show's traditional all-male chorus, as well as a small ensemble of dancers. It also boasts an incredible production team. Joining director Molnár, whose works have been seen at the Atlanta Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Santa Fe Opera, is visiting scenic designer Sarah L. Lambert. "La Cenerentola" is Ms. Lambert's first University Productions show, but her work has been seen previously on dozens of stages around the United States. Costume design is by U-M undergraduate student Rachel Laritz, whose work was seen previously this season in "The Good Person of Szechwan." The lighting design is done by Theatre Department faculty member Rob Murphy, whose work was recently seen in "The Consul."

The Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, located within the Michigan League at 911 North University, is wheelchair accessible and equipped with an infrared listening system for hearing enhancement.

Place: Any place and time where there is still hope that goodness will triumph.


Europe; late nineteenth century. In the run-down mansion of Don Magnifico, his two daughters, Clorinda and Tisbe, admire their own talents and beauty while Angelina, his stepdaughter, who serves as the family maid and is therefore called Cenerentola (Cinderella), sings to herself about a king who chose his wife because of her kindness. Cenerentola's only friends and companions are a group of chimney sweeps; magical spirits visible only to her.

A beggar appears and the stepsisters send him away, but Cenerentola offers him bread and coffee. Just as the stepsisters set upon her for disobeying them, two men arrive to announce that Prince Ramiro will soon pay a visit: he is looking for the most beautiful girl in the land to be his bride. The sisters order Cenerentola to help them get ready.

Magnifico, awakened by the arguing Tisbe and Clorinda, comes to investigate and scolds the girls for interrupting his extraordinary dream of a donkey that sprouted wings. When he learns of the prince's visit, he exhorts the girls to save the troubled family fortunes by capturing the young man's fancy.

All retire to their rooms, and Prince Ramiro - disguised as his own valet - arrives alone, so as to see the women of the household without their knowing who he is. Cenerentola is startled by the handsome stranger, and each admires the other. Asked who she is, Cenerentola gives a flustered explanation about her mother's death and her own servile position, then excuses herself to respond to her stepsisters' call.

When Magnifico enters, Ramiro announces the prince's arrival. Magnifico fetches Clorinda and Tisbe, and they greet Dandini - the prince's valet who is disguised as the prince himself. The sisters fawn over Dandini, who invites them to the palace. Don Magnifico also prepares to leave, arguing with Cenerentola, who does not want to be left behind. Ramiro notes how badly she is treated. His tutor, the philosopher, Alidoro, appears and reads from a census list, asking for the third daughter of the household. Magnifico denies she is still alive.

Cenerentola is left in tears as everyone leaves. The beggar returns to tell her that she is to accompany him to the palace. Casting off his rags, he reveals himself to be Alidoro and assures the girl that heaven will reward her purity of heart.

Dandini, still posing as the prince, escorts the two sisters into the royal country house and offers Magnifico a tour of the wine cellar, hoping to get him drunk. Dandini manages to disentangle himself from the sisters and escape their excessive attentions.

Dandini reports to the prince with his negative opinion of the two sisters. This confuses Ramiro, who has heard Alidoro speak well of one of Magnifico's daughters. Clorinda and Tisbe rejoin Dandini and when he offers Ramiro as a husband for one of them, they turn their noses up in disgust at a mere valet. Alidoro announces the arrival of an unknown, veiled lady. Ramiro recognises something in her voice. When she lifts her veil, he and Dandini, as well as the sisters, are struck by the familiarity of her appearance. Their confusion is shared by Magnifico, who comes to announce supper and notices the newcomer's resemblance to Cenerentola. All feel they are in a dream, but on the verge of being awakened by some shocking explosion.


In a room of the palace, Magnifico stews over this new threat to his daughters' chances with the prince. Ramiro, on the other hand, is captivated by the unknown woman, not least because of her resemblance to the girl he met that morning. He conceals himself as Dandini arrives in amorous pursuit of the exquisitely attired Cenerentola. She politely declines his advances, saying she is in love with someone else - his valet. At this the delighted Ramiro steps forth. To test his sincerity, she gives him (still believing him to be the valet) one of a pair of matching bracelets, saying that if he cares for her, he will find her and discover who she is. Then if he still desires her, she will be his. She leaves and Ramiro, with Alidoro's encouragement, prepares for the search.

Once again the prince's valet, Dandini, faces Magnifico, who still believes he is the prince and asks that he finally decide which of his two daughters he wishes to marry. Dandini confesses he is a valet. When Magnifico turns indignant, Dandini orders him out of the palace.

Using his magical powers, Alidoro conjures up a storm to aid in his plan of bringing Ramiro and Cenerentola together. At Magnifico's house, Cenerentola, once more in rags, tends the fire and sings her ballad. Magnifico and the sisters return, all in a vile mood, and order Cenerentola out of their sight. Dandini appears at the door, saying the prince's carriage has overturned outside. Cenerentola, bringing a chair for the prince, realises that Ramiro is actually the prince; he in turn recognises her bracelet. Confusion reigns as Magnifico and his daughters smart from their defeat; angered by such meanness, Ramiro threatens them, but Cenerentola asks him to show mercy. Her family still against her, Cenerentola leaves with the prince, while Alidoro gives thanks to heaven for this happy outcome.

In the throne room of Ramiro's palace, Magnifico begs forgiveness with the newly created princess, but she asks only to be acknowledged at last as his daughter. Secure in her happiness, she asks the prince to forgive Magnifico and the two stepsisters; born to misfortune, she has seen her fortunes change. Chastened, her father and stepsisters embrace her as she declares that her days of sitting by the fire are over.

Click here to view the La Cenerentola program as a PDF file

Production Photographs

Cast - March 21 and 23, 2002

Theodore Sipes as Alidoro Pei Yi Wang as Cenerentola and Nathan Northrup as Don Ramiro

Alissa Rowe as Clorinda, Darnell Ishmel as Don Magnifico and Emily Wood Toronto as Tisbe Alissa Rowe and Emily Wood Toronto

Alissa Rowe, Emily Wood Toronto and Michael Turnbloom as Dandini Nathan Northrup and the sweeps

Michael Turnbloom and Darnell Ishmel Cast

Cast Cast

Cast - March 22 and 24, 2002

Aviva Ezring as Cenerentola and Christopher Temporelli as Don Magnifico Michael Gallant as Don Ramiro and Aviva Ezring

Aaron Kandel as Alidoro David Dillard as Dandini and Christopher Temporelli

Deborah Selig as Clorinda and Elise Quagliata as Tisbe Deborah Selig, Elise Quagliata and David Dillard

Michael Gallant and sweeps Cast

Cast Cast