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5 reasons why Rossini’s Cinderella is better than the Walt Disney Princess

on March 26, 2013













When Rossini’s opera La Cenerentola (Cinderella in italian) was first performed, way back in the nineteenth century, Cinderella was already a famous fairy tale thanks in part to our distinguished  French author, Charles Perrault.

Today, everybody knows Walt Disney’s Cinderella, but apart from opera lovers, Rossini’s Cinderella has fallen into a deep pit of  dark oblivion. 

Two weeks ago, I was lucky to see a beautiful performance of Rossini’s Cenerentola at the Opera Garnier in Paris (one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world, I might add). And I can assure you that there are at least 5 reasons why Rossini’s Cinderella beats   Disney Princess Cinderella fair and square.

1) In Rossini’s version, Cinderella is said to be not only beautiful, but intelligent

Was Rossini more of a feminist than 20th century Disney producers? Perhaps, perhaps.

At any rate, in Rossini’s opera, it is mentioned several times that Cinderella is intelligent, and that is one of the qualities the Prince appreciates. Of course he loves her also for her beauty and graciousness, but I do think that this point must be underlined. 

And I must add, that the first time the Prince sees Cinderella and falls in love with her isn’t at the ball. When he sees her for the first time, she is dressed in rags as a neglected servant in her home, but he nevertheless falls in love with her. As for her, little does she know that the handsome man she just met is in fact the Prince.

Which brings me to point n°2.

2) The Prince is active in his pursuit of happiness

Rossini’s Prince Charming isn’t so charming at first. Let me explain.

He is cunning and has a plan to find the perfect bride. He asks his valet, Dandini, to take his place while they go from house to house to invite every fair lady of the kingdom. That way the real Prince can see how women behave towards him when they think he is a mere, destitute valet.

Isn’t he smart?

I daresay say he is. Especially when you see how the two stepsisters snub  him mercilessly, and shamefully try to  seduce  Dandini (the fake “Prince”) at any cost,  while Cinderella is charmed by the handsome “valet”who wins her heart in an instant.

3) Cinderella makes a point of choosing whom she wants to marry

When Cinderella manages to go to the ball and arrives late, but exquisitely dressed, everybody is struck by her beauty including the fake Prince and the real one. But of course nobody recognizes her.

Dandini tells her, still acting his part as the fake Prince, that he would love to make her his bride.

But lo and behold, Cinderella answers that she is in love with his valet (who is in fact the real Prince) and that she cares nothing for titles, fame and fortune. She just wants the man she  loves. She then dares the valet to find her, the real her and tells him that if he still loves her when he sees her again (in her rags, but he doesn’t know that yet), she’ll agree to marry him.

See? Isn’t she  a determined, strong-willed woman who knows what she wants? Isn’t she a better role model than the Disney version who just happens to lose her glass slipper, and waits patiently for her Prince to find her?

4) The opera is altogether much more amusing than the movie

It is important to remember that La Cenerentola belongs to the comic opera genre, and as such will have you laughing from start to finish.

 Forget the evil stepmother! In Rossini’s opera she is replaced by a grotesque stepfather whose main thoughts are inextricably related to eating and drinking.

The evil stepsisters are so funny, I completely and wholeheartedly “fell in love” with them and their shameless, exaggerated, dim-witted, flirtatious manners. All for the wrong man, too.

Which brings me to Dandini, who is a really outstanding character. At first he is hesitant to use his “promotion” to his advantage, but he quickly loses all qualms and seduces the two stepsisters in the most scandalously, humoristic ways.

5) The music is breathtaking

How can I speak about an opera without mentioning La Cenerentola‘s beautiful libretto? 

All I can say is that Cinderella’s convincing mezzo-soprano arias will win you over, and  Disney’s “A dream is a wish your heart makes” will sound like intolerable clatter.



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