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Learn about the Italian composer, Gioachino Rossini, and his works & life.

Gioachino Rossini: Overview:

  • Born: 1792 - Pesaro, Italy 
  • Died: 1868 - Paris, France
  • Historical Period: Late Classical
  • Musical Media: Opera, orchestra, chamber music, keyboard, choral, songs
Composer, Gioachino Rossini

    Gioachino Rossini was born in 1792 in Italy to modest parents - his father was a poor musician, while his mother was an obscure singer. Rossini was particularly remarkable for composing excellent operatic pieces, mainly comic ones. A few examples of these are:

    • The Barber of Seville (1816)
    • Cinderella (1817)
    • Semiramide (1823)

    A long history and widespread acclaim later, he passed away from pneumonia in the year 1868. 

    Gioachino Rossini: Who Spun Magic With His Notes

    Born to parents of humble but musical tastes, Rossini grew up with most of his time spent in theatres. He was admitted to the Philharmonic School at Bologna, when he was only 14, and wrote his first piece - Demetrio e Polibio (1806), an opera seria, which was ultimately performed in 1812. The harpsichord, violin, and horn were mastered by him when he was only 15. As Rossini's father supported the French, he was imprisoned when Austria re-established the old regime. Rossini’s mother left for Bologna with her son and professionally sang there to earn for her family. 

    A combination of artistic desire and compulsion made Rossini involve himself in the opera buffa and his first among these, La cambiale di matrimonio (1810) saw a Venetian debut. This was followed by L’equivoca stravagante (1811) and La morte di Didone (1811) and in 1812, Rossini saw remarkable success with La pietra del paragone and Ciro in Babilonia. The famous contralto, Marietta Marcolini, who both admired and performed Rossini’s operas, recommended Rossini to the committee of La Scala opera house in Milan. Full of energy and ingenious music, the satirical La pietra del paragone was performed 53 times in a single season at La Scala. The artist sped up his compositional pace and in the next 15 months, 6 operas were crafted, which included L’italiana in Algeri (1813) and the Tancredi (1813), a masterpiece, and by 1814, he had produced fourteen operas.

    Rossini wrote Il signor Bruschino in 1813, on demand of the San Moisè Theatre and when further immense success followed L’Italiana in Algeri’s performance, he became a well-respected composer at La Scala. In 1814, Rossini wrote Aureliano in Palmira, which was, unfortunately, a failure. Subsequent pieces include Sigismundo (1814) and Il Turco in Italia (1814), with the former being another failed attempt on the composer’s end.

    Rossini traveled to Naples and came in contact with Domenico Barbaja, a revered Opera producer, through whom, he also met singer Isabella Colbran. As a grand soprano, she was accustomed to tragic music and over the subsequent 7 years, 10 of Rossini’s operas were brought out to the public by Barbaja himself, with Isabella’s extremely virtuosic voice in mind. Her performance of Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra (1815), was received to huge acclaim. The composer’s admiration for the singer soon turned to love and the two married in 1822. Isabella’s performances and Rossini’s excellence in churning out exceptional compositions got them both invited to Rome for 1816’s carnival. Among the successes that Rossini had in Rome were Il barbiere di Siviglia in 1816 and La cenerentola in 1817, with the latter utilizing a contralto for the heroine’s role and was widely successful. Otello (1816), was also an exceptionally well-made composition that remained popular before Verdi’s opera, which had the same title, saw greater fame. La gazza ladra (1817) is also to be mentioned among his accomplishments in Rome. La donna del lago (1819), which was based on a Walter Scott novel, failed miserably on debut but eventually saw greater acceptance. 

    The Rossini family moved to Paris in 1824 to be a part of its incredible musical scene, and between the years 1824 and 1829, he wrote 4 French operas and 1 Italian opera.  The composer’s final venture into operatic writing was Guillaume Tell (1829), and this is generally considered as Rossini’s very best, which was matched only by the best of the likes of Wagner and Verdi. In Paris, Rossini made the acquaintance of Olympe Pélissier, his second wife, through Honoré de Balzac, the French author. Following Isabella’s passing, she married Rossini in 1846. Les soirées musicales in 1835, was among the composer’s greatest pieces wrote in Paris, which was a collection of arias and duets. 

    He started getting seriously ill by the conclusion of the 1830s and in 1837, he shifted to Bologna. In 1842, the man of music wrote Stabat Mater. The Rossini’s went back to Paris in 1855 and there he seemed to recover from his illness but to a small extent. This allowed him to write Péchés de vieillesse in 1857, which were piano and vocal pieces. These were about 150 in total. Finally, Rossini’s last composition of real value was a choral piece, the Petite Messe Solennelle, written in 1864. 

    Gioachino Rossini was a man of simple tastes, when it came to personal grooming, as he usually is known to have worked in his bedroom, wearing a dressing gown. He is even rumored to have said that if he spent time on trivial things which involved getting out, he would never get his work finished. These speak of both character and an unflinching commitment to his work. His exceptional musical talents were well-complimented by the loyal Olympe and some good friends, but ultimately his genius-level talent in musical writing is what made him the Rossini that we have come to admire. 

     

     

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