Disguise, Kindness, and Musical Magic: The Triumph of Goodness in Rossini’s La Cenerentola
Dr. Julia Randel
The familiar story of Cinderella has many variants, however Gioacchino Rossini’s operatic version, La Cenerentola, Ossia La Bontà in Trionfo (1817), contributes unique character developments expressed through the music. This paper presents an analysis of the opera with specific references to the development of the heroine’s character through the music. The focus is on the manifestation of “goodness triumphant” within Rossini’s structured score; Cenerentola’s simple generosity and kindness is conveyed through the use of ornamentation, dynamic level, and orchestral accompaniment. The composer suggests that Cenerentola’s “true self” manifests around the quiet and melancholy D-minor folk song she sings in the beginning of the opera. This aria is contrasted with her stepsister’s frantic and petty dialogue to showcase the heroine’s simplicity and kindness. In the libretto, Cenerentola changes social classes by wearing a disguise; Rossini illuminates this change in the score. When she is in disguise at the ball, Cenerentola’s vocal score is grander, with less orchestral accompaniment. However, the music reveals that the heroine’s temporary change in social class due to her disguise is not the solution to her problems. Her extravagant vocal line foreshadows Cenerentola’s forthcoming happiness as the future bride of Ramiro, but ultimately does not showcase her “true self” in life or in love. In addition, Rossini proves through the music that her qualities make her a worthy match for the love-struck and simplistic Don Ramiro. Cenerentola’s folk song is used for comparison; the duet the two characters share begins with a similar melodic structure to the heroine’s folk song. Placed in a major key instead of minor, this musical comparison suggests that Don Ramiro will play a part in reversing Cenerentola’s current misfortunes. Although Rossini’s La Cenerentola strongly rejects any components of supernatural forces, the opera retains many of the magical elements from Grimm’s fairy tale within a musical analysis of the score.
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