|Monresor, B. (1965)|
Once upon a time, "in the ancient city of Montefiascone, there stood the castle of the Baron on Montefiascone. The castle had once been magnificent, but now was falling to pieces, all because the Baron thought only of his own pleasure." This Baron had two daughters, a pair of young ladies who always put pleasure first, duty later. Their names were Clorinda and Tisbe, and they spent their father's money faster than he could make it. One day, the money was all gone. The Baron reflected upon solutions and made a decision: he would "marry a rich widow, the mother of gentle Angelina." So the man proposed to her, married her immediately, and threw a huge party. On her dime! When the feasting was over and the Baron discovered that he had spent every penny of his new wife's money, as well as his own, things took a sober turn. The worse for the gentle Angelina. Her mother soon died from shock, and Clorinda and Tisbe lost no time in evicting her from her quarters. They forced her to do all of the dirtiest work around the house, laughing at her dirty clothes, and calling her Cinderella. One day, as they were enjoying their breakfast, they heard knocking at the door. When Cinderella answered it, in came a beggar. "Have pity on the poor,' he said, and Cinderella brought him some bread." But her stepsisters were furious that she had given the bread away, and berated her for it loudly. The beggarman ran away, but as he left, "he called back mysteriously, 'Foolish girls! If only you knew who I am!" In a palace nearby lived the Prince of Salerno. He had heard that there were some new young ladies living at the Baron's estate, and he sent some servants over with a message. "The Prince of Salerno is coming to call, And escort you both to his summer ball. Tonight is the night when he will decide which beautiful lady shall be his bride." What a commotion this caused at the Baron's castle! All three girls danced with joy — until Clorinda and Tisbe told Cinderella to stop singing and start getting their clothes ready. She would most certainly NOT be going, they told her, and laughed at her tears. As he got ready for his own ball, the Prince thought to himself, "I am afraid every maiden in this kingdom wants only to marry a prince, and would do anything to snare him. But I know how to fool them." That's when he asked his valet to switch clothes with him, and the one disguised himself as the other! And off to the festivities they went. Since he was supposed to be the servant, the Prince went first into the Baron's dwelling. The first person he saw was Cinderella, toiling away in the kitchen. When he asked her who she was, she replied, "Only the kitchen wench." And when he asked where the Baron's daughters were, she told them of the elaborate preparations being made upstairs. Just then, the heralds called to announce that the Prince had arrived outside. The Baron and his conniving daughters bowed low, saying, "Highest of highnesses!" and the Prince gallantly replied, "Like a bee in springtime, I seek the lily or the rose who can bring joy into my life." Now Cinderella asked permission to come to the ball, but the Baron ordered her back to the kitchen. So she went, and when she got there and was alone, she sighed aloud. Thinking of the kind valet who had spoken with her, she said aloud, "Will I ever see him again?" That's when she heard a voice. It said, "Don't cry, Cinderella. I have returned to take you to the ball." It was the beggar! "He waved his hand over a pumpkin, and transformed it into a golden coach. Maids then appeared to dress Cinderella in a gown sewn with gold thread, and shoes covered with diamonds and pearls. " When the bewildered girl asked whether it was a dream, the beggar-magician told her that it was not. It was, however, temporary magic, that would last only until midnight. Never, ever, had there been such an event of splendor and excitement as the prince's ball that night! How could the prince pick a bride, when every maiden was draped in luxurious gems and silks, each prettier than the last? All evening long, the valet, who was dressed as the prince, could not distance himself from the pushy daughters of the Baron. The man himself kept saying, "There are no roses here more glorious than my daughters." Suddenly, a glittering coach arrived, and a princess stepped out who caused the beauty of everyone else to fade. Who could she possibly be? "The true prince, disguised as the valet, came forward. 'Something about this maiden is familiar to me.' he said to himself."So he asked her to dance. She accepted, and before they knew where the time had gone, the clock began to strike twelve. At that very moment, the lovely girl ran away, as nimbly as a deer. The prince, disguised as the valet, ran after her. All he could find was a shoe that she had dropped. So he called his valet, who was still disguised as the prince, and said," Bring my carriage. Hurry so we can overtake the owner of this slipper — the maid who has stolen my heart." He did not know that the magician-beggarman was hiding nearby, and listening to every word. That one said to himself, "And now, to make sure that the prince will stop at the Baron's castle, and then..." He slipped off, keeping the Prince's carriage in sight. As they neared the Baron's mansion, the magician caused the horses to shie, and the carriage to tip off of the road. Climbing down to see how they might remedy the problem, the valet and the prince were astounded to find that they had stopped at the front door to the Baron's castle! So they went in, and asked to try the shoe on his daughters. The eldest two, of course, thrust their large feet right into his face, imploring to be first to try. But when each had had their turn, the results were clear: "their feet were much, much too large." So the prince, who was still dressed as the valet, asked if their wasn't someone else in the house who could try the shoe. At that moment, Cinderella stepped into the room. "Let us try the slipper on her, too." he said, but the Baron shouted, "Not on the wench!" Ignoring him, the valet, who was really the prince, knelt in front of Cinderella. It fit her foot perfectly! "I have found you at last!' the prince exclaimed. 'My handsome valet!' said Cinderella. 'I am not a valet but the real prince, while that man dressed as the prince is simply my valet. Through this masquerade, I have been able to tell who is really worthy of becoming the Princess of Salerno." So he asked Cinderella to marry him, and she said yes. The wedding feast was an event even greater than had been the ball. Kings and queen, princes and princesses from kingdoms far and wide came to pay their homage to the bride and groom. Even Clorinda and Tisbe, and their disgraced father, the Baron, were there. As they "kneeled before Cinderella asking her pardon, everyone's joy was beyond description. 'Virtue always triumphs in the end.' observed the mysterious beggar, who in reality was the Grand Magician of Naples and the prince's tutor." And they all lived happily ever after.
From The Opera Giachino Rossini in a version written and illustrated by Beni Montresor. (1965) New York: Alfred A. Knopf Cinderella From the Opera By Gioaccchino Rossini
Notes: This is such a fun story, and the confusions of the opera become very clear here. The illustrations are psychedelic! See all of this author/illustrator's other works, some listed below.
Montessori Connection: Fine Arts: Opera
1. Read this story, and notice how it is different from many Cinderella stories.
2. Watch the opera: Rossini - La Cenerentola (Metropolitan Opera) or Rossini - La Cenerentola / Campanella, Bartoli, Dara, Houston Grand Opera [VHS]
3. Read more of Beni Montresor's great kids books, including May I Bring a Friend? and Hansel and Gretel and A for Angel; Beni Montresor's a B C Picture-Stories