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Rossini's 'La Cenerentola'

She's a fairytale heroine who has had many different names, including Cendrillon, Cenerentola, Ashenputtel — and Cinderella. Whatever she's called, almost everyone knows her story. She's the innocent girl, abused by her dangerously dysfunctional family, who winds up marrying a handsome prince.

The version of the story we know best today originated with French writer Charles Perrault, who published a story called "Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper" in 1697. The Brothers Grimm wrote their version in 1812, and the electronic age produced the animated film by Disney, in 1950.

Those of a certain age may remember Disney's movie from childhood matinees at the local theater. What we may not remember is that our parents, sitting alongside, were having just as much fun as the kids. That's because, along with its innocent charm, the story also has a healthy dose of adult passions and foibles.

So it's not surprising that it was Rossini, a master of bubbly comedies with poignant moments scattered among the laughs, who composed the most popular operatic take on Cinderella — La Cenerentola. It's one of Rossini's funniest operas, but with a serious side to remind us that the happy ending to Cinderella's story wasn't just a gift from some benevolent fairy. On her journey from servant's quarters to a princess' throne, she faces some real dangers. In overcoming them, she displays a gentle and tolerant spirit, some profoundly adult insights — and the pluck and courage to defy everyone who stands in her way.

On World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents a Houston Grand Opera production of La Cenerentola, featuring a stunning performance by mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in the title role, with tenor Lawrence Brownlee as her Prince Charming.

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