Part one – A room on the ground floor in Don Magnifico’s baronal mansion.
The Barons’ two extremely plain daughters, Clorinda and Thisbe, try on their new dresses, while their ragged sister, Cenerentola, prepares coffee for them, singing to herself a sad song. Someone knocks at the door: there is a beggar outside, and, while the two cruel sisters treat him with disdain, the kindhearted Cenerentola lets him in and gives him some coffee and some bread. The two sisters scold Cenerentola snappily; little do they dream that this beggar is really Alidoro, the disguised tutor of the handsome young Prince of Salerno, Don Ramiro. A few minutes later a group of courtiers call at the mansion. They bring an invitation for Don Magnifico and his daughters to attend a grand ball which the young Prince is to give at the Palace this night. They also announce that after the ball the Prince will choose his future bride among his lady-guests. This is great news. Clorinda and Thisbe, overjoyed, give some money to the courtiers and rush off to try on their costumes for the ball. Cenerentola, tells the beggar that she would like to give him some money but unfortunately she has none, she herself being so poor. Deeply moved, the beggar thanks her and predicts unexpected happiness for the kind-hearted girl. While getting ready for the ball, the two sisters order Cenerentola about. Conceitedly they feel sure that one of them will be the bride-elect. Their pompous and foolish father comes in. He hears the news and is delighted too. He already sees himself established as an important official at the palace. The room is now empty and, suddenly, another stranger arrives, dressed in the uniform of a valet. This is the Prince himself. Having heard from his tutor, Alidoro, of the sweet and lovely Cenerentola, he has changed clothes with his valet Dandini, determined to win the girl in this disguise. Cenerentola hurries into the room and the two fall in love at first sight. The Prince tells her that his name is Dandini. Now Don Magnifico comes in and asks about the Prince. The false Dandini answers that his master will soon arrive and, in fact, comes the valet, pretending to be the Prince, followed by courtiers and servants. Cenerentola would like to go to the ball, but her cruel sisters bid her remain at home. They all go to the Palace and the poor girl is left alone and sad by the fire. And now a wonderful thing happens to her: Alidoro, this time disguised as a pilgrim, comes in and announces that he will take her to the ball. What is more, he has brought her a perfectly ravishing costume to wear, complete with silver slippers, jewels and bouquet. In great excitement Cenerentola arrays herself in these gorgeous clothes and drives off to the ball, in a splendid coach, with Alidoro sitting beside her.
Part two – A garden at Don Ramiro’s Palace.
Dandini , still pretending to be the Prince, is making a great fuss of the two unpleasant sisters, and each of them feels almost sure of being the chosen bride when the ball will come to an end. Don Ramiro is enjoying himself too in his own disguise as royal valet, but the two sisters scarcely listen to his words. Having no intention of wasting their time with a mere valet, they bestow their smiles on the man they believe to be the Prince. Suddenly, a lovely new-comer arrives with Alidoro: Cenerentola, in all her borrowed glory. Her dazzling beauty, glittering jewels and magnificent robes instantly draw every-one’s attention, especially the eyes of that impertinent but certainly handsome young “valet”, the so called Dandini. The joy of the ball comes to an end for Clorinda and Thisbe. That lovely lady bears a certain resemblance with their own sister. They jealously watch the man they believe to be the Prince approach the beautiful stranger and dance with her. Then the guests adjourn to the dining hall, to await the Prince’s choice of his bride.
Part one – Garden at Don Ramiro’s Palace.
Don Magnifico is happy. He has been told that the Prince has appointed him Master of his Wine-Keepers and he sees himself with pride in his new important and very pleasant appointment. In comes Don Ramiro who is afraid of Dandini’s infatuation for the lovely Cenerentola and hides to listen to their conversation. Here they come, Dandini still disguised as the Prince. He declares his love, but Cenerentola tells him simply that she loves the Prince’s valet and has thoughts for no else. These words are overheard by the real Prince. Filled with joy, he now comes forward. Still pretending to be a servant he now declares his own love for Cenerentola. The girl answers that she loves him too, but, before taking a final decision, the valet must first discover her true identity. Then she disappears from the Palace as mysteriously as she had arrived. After consulting with his tutor Alidoro, the Prince decides to doff his disguise and to continue his wooing in his own person. Alidoro conceives a plan to permit the Prince to meet again his beloved Cenerentola. Informed that he must resume his true position as valet, Dandini enjoys one more good joke before his play-acting comes to an end. Still in his disguise as Prince, he asks the pompous old Baron what sort of state and privileges he would expect to receive, should he, the ‘Prince’, choose either Clorinda or Thisbe as his bride. The foolish Don Magnifico asks for lackeys, coaches, wine and all sorts of riches, but then nearly collapses when Dandini reveals to him that he is merely the Prince’s valet.
Part two – Don Magnifico’s house. The same room as in act one.
Cenerentola, once more in poor attire, goes about her many tasks, but her heart is gay at the thought of the lovely valet who was so kind to her at the ball. Don Magnifico and his daughters come home. Clorinda and Thisbe look at their sister: yes, they must admit how like she is to the lovely stranger they had seen at the ball. Old Alidoro is carrying out his plan to perfection: the sudden thunderstorm, the overturning of the royal coach just at the door of the Baron’s mansion… Soon the royal party enters the house, seeking shelter: the Prince, Alidoro, Dandini. The Baron and his plain daughters are full of excitement. Cenerentola, on being sharply commanded by the Baron to place a chair for His Royal Highness’, promptly puts it beside Dandini, whom she still believes to be the Prince. But she stands amazed as Don Magnifico reveals to her the true identity of her suitor. The Prince, too, recognizes her and, taking her eagerly in his arms, announces her as his chosen bride. The happy and smiling Cenerentola is led away by her royal over. The dumbfounded Baron and his plain daughters are thus left disconsolate; they have no money and they will have to beg for their keep from Cenerentola and the Prince.
Part three –The throne room at the Palace.
Cenerentola is presented by Don Ramiro to the court. But her kind heart has not changed with her good fortune. She sends for Clorinda and Thisbe and the Baron, and invites them to share in the luxury which she now enjoys. So everybody is happy.