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'It’s behind you!’ Cinderella returns to WNO this Autumn

25 June 2018

‘Is it panto time already?’ you may well be asking…

This Autumn we are bringing back our fabulously colourful production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola – or Cinderella as it’s better known. This will be its first revival since its debut here in Autumn 2007 and we can’t wait. As the Director, Joan Font stated in WNO’s Opera Live 07/08 edition, ‘We all dream of escaping poverty and misery, of living full and happy lives’, and there can’t be a more classic example of such a tale than that of Cinderella.

Although this is a version of the well-known tale, don’t expect to see a fairy godmother or any magic moments – Rossini and his librettist, Ferretti, had to write a version that would pass Rome’s papal government’s strict guidelines, which frowned on the supernatural. The naked foot was also not allowed – in case it incited lust – so the glass slipper was replaced by a bracelet in this version.

So instead of magic expect to find role swaps and disguises, ugly attitudes and prima donnas primping; alongside fools making fools of themselves and kindness and goodness, being rightly rewarded. (The opera’s subtitle is even La bontà in trionfo, ie Goodness Triumphant.) Rossini’s music is what propels this tale along through all its twists and turns to the inevitable happy ending.

Written as an opera buffa, a traditional Italian comic opera, Cinderella’s stepfather is the buffo (aka clown) of the piece. Cenerentola is Italian for Cinderella, but her character in the opera is called Angelina and in another variation on the fairy tale, the wicked parent in this version is her stepfather, Don Magnifico – the aforementioned clown character. Her ugly sisters, Clorinda and Tisbe, are ugly in character, not looks, and this is what proves to be their downfall. There’s no fairy godmother – instead the Prince’s tutor, Alidoro and servant, Dandini play their part in ‘fixing’ things for the good girl and her prince, but most of it is Angelina’s own doing.

Don Ramiro is said prince, and in La Cenerentola he spends a good part of the opera dressed as his valet Dandini, while Dandini acts the role of prince – a guise that helps reveal the ‘ugly’ natures of the sisters and innate goodness of Angelina.

Cinderella bubbles with fraught comic situations – boozy dad, catty sisters, a multi-coloured swap shop of borrowed clothes.’ David Jays (‘A Gorgeous Journey – the world of Rossini’, from Opera Live 07/08)

What this production does give you are mice – and dancing ones! Their presence works with the fanciful set and costumes to bring to mind the better known Cinderella narrative; a playful ploy in this adaptation which is otherwise far more forward facing in its portrayal of women having a part to play in their own destiny.

Whatever your view on the momentum behind the match, there’s no denying the enduring appeal of a love story and our Autumn Season contains three classics: La traviata and War and Peace*, alongside this, Rossini’s Cinderella, La Cenerentola.

*except Bristol or Liverpool.

For all the madness, chaos and confusion of the other characters, what is important is that this is a story about how two people, Ramiro and Cenerentola, fall in love

Joan Font (from the 2007 programme)