Rossini’s “La Cenerentola”: Two Enchanting Excerpts from the Final Act

Gioachino Rossini’s touching 1817 comic opera, La Cenerentola, retells the popular Cinderella fairy tale with a few wrinkles: The glass slipper is replaced with a bracelet, the wicked stepmother is, instead, a stepfather named Don Magnifico, the Fairy Godmother is replaced by the philosopher, Alidoro, and there is no magic pumpkin. Questo e un nodo avviluppato One of the opera’s most dramatic moments occurs in the second (and final) act when the Prince (Don …

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Paganini Meets Rossini: “I Palpiti”

If the Top 40 popular song charts had existed in the early nineteenth century, they would have been dominated by the melodies of opera composers such as Gioachino Rossini. Today, popular music is distributed through recordings. In the nineteenth century, music distribution came in the form of arrangements and adaptations. Rock star virtuosos such as Niccolò Paganini and Franz Liszt drew on these melodies in the form of paraphrases. Paganini’s Variations on I …

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“Là Ci Darem La Mano” from “Don Giovanni”: Mozart’s Most Seductive Duet

Don Giovanni (or Don Juan) is one of literature’s most infamous seducers. In Mozart’s two act 1787 opera—a sublime blend of comedy, melodrama, and supernatural elements— the character takes on a new and intriguing complexity. As the cultural historian, James H. Johnson writes in his essay, Sincerity and Seduction in Don Giovanni, Mozart and the librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, “deliberately employ a tone of sincerity that keeps to the surface in conveying Giovanni’s …

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“Ombra mai fu” from Handel’s “Xerxes”

George Frederick Handel seems to have had an affinity for expansive, majestic melodies. Consider the stately opening movement of the Violin Sonata in D Major, HWV 371, or the regal splendor we encounter in so many movements of the Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks.  Perhaps there is no better example than Ombra mai fu (“Never was a shade”), the opening aria from Handel’s 1738 opera, Xerxes, or Serse as it was known in Italian. The aria’s setting is a lush garden …

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