Comic drama in two acts by Gioachino Rossini Performed in Italian with German surtitles
The impoverished baron of Montefiascone, his two daughters Clorinda and Tisbe, and his daughter-in-law Angelina, who is compelled to do all the work in the house, humiliated and therefore called Cenerentola, live at the baron's formerly splendid but now dilapidated countryseat. The baron is still asleep, whereas Clorinda and Tisbe are awake, one starting to do her daily morning exercises at the barre, while the other is dressing herself up. Cenerentola, as is fitting to her place in the house, is sitting at the kitchen stove, doing her daily housework and singing an old song.
Hearing this, her two sisters are seized with anger. Alidoro, philosopher and teacher of prince Ramiro, appears, dressed up as a beggar. He looks for a befitting bride for his lord, unmarried so far, and believes to find her here, in Don Magnifico's house. The guise of a beggar was chosen to make it easier for him to search the maidens's hearts. Clorinda and Tisbe want to rebuff the beggar right away, but Cenerentola invites him for breakfast, very much to the annoyance of her sisters.
Noblemen of the prince's announce the forthcoming arrival of Ramiro who is going to invite the daughters to his palace, take them to the dance and then choose the most beautiful maiden for his bride.
Clorinda and Tisbe revel in pleasant anticipation of the fortune to come. They push Cenerentola to bring them their jewellery and dresses so that Ramiro can see their shining beauty. Don Magnifico wakes up and is angry at his daughters because they have woken him from a dream: soon he will regain his old rank.
Clorinda and Tisbe tell their father that prince Ramiro has invited them to his palace and there he will choose the most beautiful maiden to be his bride. Don Magnifico, immediately recognising his opportunity to get out of his miserable situation, advises his two daughters on how to bewitch the prince to win him over. They leave to dress themselves up.
Led by Alidoro, prince Ramiro enters Don Magnifico's house. On his teacher's advice, he wears the clothes of his valet Dandini with whom he has exchanged roles in order to be able to examine his future bride. Cenerentola, entering, gets an awful fright when seeing a person unknown to her, drops a coffee cup, and is immediately fascinated by him. Both are spellbound.
The real valet, Dandini, appears with great pageantry. What a pleasure to play the part of a prince for once! Clorinda and Tisbe are truly enthusiastic about this false prince. Not able to see through the game played, either of them tries to win him over. In his role as prince, Dandini, gloating over the situation, invites Clorinda, Tisbe and their father to the festivity to take place at the palace.
Cenerentola must help her father with the last preparations for his appearance at the palace. She also wants to go there. This wish of hers is flatly refused. So she turns to Dandini and Ramiro. At this instant, Alidoro reappears with a register-book, which claims that Don Magnifcio has three daughters. Don Magnifico first pretended ignorance, then declares she is dead, but Cenerentola protests. Just in time Dandini and Ramiro can prevent her from being beaten. But Cenerentola is not allowed to participate in the festivity: her realm is the ashes. At this point Alidoro makes himself known to Cenerentola. He says he would see her to the palace.
Meanwhile, Don Magnifico and his daughters Clorinda and Tisbe have arrived at prince Ramiro's palace. Dandini, the false prince, appoints Don Magnifico cellarman as he is very knowledgeable about wine. While the latter is stepping down to the wine cellar, Clorinda and Tisbe buzz around the fake prince, trying to attract his attention.
Dandini and Ramiro arrive at the conclusion that they are by no means the right persons to be given in marriage to the prince or to be raised to the throne. Dandini, the fake prince, tells the two maidens that he can't marry the two of them and would like to give one to his friend in marriage. Under no circumstances, comes the firm reply. The true prince is happy to hear that.
Alidoro enters with an unknown veiled lady. His appearance causes astonishment. Everybody feels insecure and wants to know who the mysterious maiden is. When she removes the veil, Don Magnifico, Clorinda and Tisbe see that she resembles Angelina — Cenerentola — very much. But Cenerentola is at their house, sitting in rags at the stove! Like everyone else, also Ramiro is enchanted. Dinner is ready. But before the guests sit at the table, they feel uneasiness mingling with the superficial pleasure.
Ramiro must always think of the unknown beauty so much resembling the girl seen in the ashes. He sees how the false prince is courting her. But Cenerentola turns Dandini away. She tells him that she loves the valet. Ramiro is relieved and delighted. Alidoro is also content. However, Cenerentola is not yet prepared for an immediate bond with Ramiro who still preserves his incognito. She demands that he find her in her natural surroundings, and gives him a bangle as a sign of recognition. Should he find her, see the same bangle on her right arm, and still want her, then she would be his wife. Cenerentola leaves the palace. Dandini is discharged from his role as a prince and becomes the valet again. It is Dandini's duty to enlighten Don Magnifico on the fact that he, Dandini, is not the prince but only his valet. The father, keen on knowing which of his daughters has been chosen, is already impatiently waiting for the outcome. Under the seal of secrecy and taking great pleasure in Don Magnifico's ignorance, Dandini informs the perplexed baron about his real identity.
Cenerentola, meanwhile, has returned home and looks at her bangle and thinks of the one she gave the counterpart. The family returns from the palace. Don Magnifico, Clorinda and Tisbe perceive that Cenerentola and the unknown beauty they saw in the palace are as like as two peas.
A thunderstorm approaches. Alidoro stages an accident so that prince Ramiro's coach topples over right in front of Don Magnifico's house. Dandini and the prince enter the house to escape the thunderstorm. Don Magnifico orders Cenerentola to get the chair of honour for the prince. She still thinks Dandini to be the real prince. Her father tells her the truth. Prince Ramiro notices the bangle he is looking for on Cenerentola's right arm. All lose their composure.
Don Magnifico, Clorinda and Tisbe are horrified to hear that the prince wants Cinderella to be his wife. Don Ramiro, in great anger, feels nothing but contempt for the evil sisters to whom he was just a man with a nondescript face. Cenerentola still can't believe the valet to be a prince and shies away from being joined in marriage with a man of so high a standing. She asks the prince's forgiveness for her family. All are moved by her great kindness and Cenerentola is happy. Now the wedding can come.