Cinderella, the daughter of an impoverished country gentleman, lost her mother when she was still quite young. Her good-hearted but weak father married again, but his second wife also died, leaving him with her two daughters from a previous marriage. These nasty creatures terrorize him and Cinderella, whom they have reduced to a scullery maid. All day long Cinderella is made to sweep, clean and polish.
ACT I: A room in Cinderella’s father’s house
Cinderella’s Step-Sisters are highly excited: they have been invited to a ball at the palace, but Cinderella must stay at home. Alone for a moment, Cinderella recalls the happy days when her mother was still alive. Her father misses those times too, but is afraid of his bad-tempered step-daughters, who scold him angrily when he tries to comfort Cinderella.
An old Beggar Woman comes asking for alms. The Step-Sisters drive her away, but Cinderella offers her some bread. The old woman casts a gentle look at the kind girl and disappears.
Tradespeople arrive, and dressmakers, a hairdresser and a jeweller help the Step-Sisters to prepare for the ball. With their dancing-master, they practice the gavotte. Cinderella’s father and Step-Sisters set out for the ball, and she is left sad and alone.
The Beggar Woman reappears and reveals herself as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. She takes Cinderella far away from her grey, everyday existence to an enchanted realm of beauty and fantasy high up among the stars, where the fairies of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter come, and each offers her their season’s gift.
The Fairy Godmother tells Cinderella that, as a reward for her kindness, she shall go to the ball in the most beautiful dress of all. But she also warns her that she must leave before the clock strikes midnight, or all the magic charms will fade away and Cinderella will be a scullery maid once more.
Cinderella is sent to fetch the silvery pumpkin that she grew in her little kitchen-garden, and it is instantly transformed into a luxurious carriage. Dressed in shimmering white, Cinderella rides away to the ball.
ACT II: The ballroom at the palace
The court jester is waiting for the ball to begin. The guests arrive, including Cinderella’s father and Step-Sisters. A fanfare heralds the Prince. Then mysterious music accompanies the arrival of Cinderella in her magical pumpkin coach. She is so beautiful that everyone takes her for a princess; even her Step-Sisters fail to recognize her. The Prince is charmed by her beauty, and offers her oranges, the rarest fruit in his realm. The guests disperse and the Prince and Cinderella, left alone, declare their love for each other. The waltz resumes and, caught up in the dance, Cinderella forgets the Fairy Godmother’s warning.
Suddenly the clock strikes 12 and Cinderella rushes from the palace, losing one of her slippers on the stairs. Dismayed, the Prince picks up the slipper and vows he will find the girl he loves.
ACT III: After the ball
Cinderella finds herself once again at the kitchen fireside. Was it all a dream? Then one of her elegant slippers falls from her apron and she knows she really was at the ball and danced with the Prince. The Step-Sisters arrive home and brag to Cinderella about their conquests at the ball.
Father announces that the Prince has come, searching for the girl who lost the slipper. When the Prince enters, both the Step-Sisters try to cram their large feet into the little slipper, hoping to convince him that it is theirs. Cinderella kneels to help – and again the slipper falls out of her pocket. The Prince immediately recognizes in the modest Cinderella the beautiful princess from the ball.
The Fairy Godmother appears. The lovers are united and walk away into the golden light of happiness.