Rossini Operas

Read this article for an overview of the life and operatic success of Giacchino Rossini, a famous Italian operatic composer.

Goiacchino Rossini is one of a few rare composers in the opera world that obtained full fame and fortune in his lifetime. Rossini's works are enjoyed today throughout the world as masterpieces of Italian theater, and his arias are routinely sung by professionals and amateurs alike. But how did this composer get his start? How do his other works relate to his operas? Read this article for an overview of the composer and his operatic works.

Rossini was born in 1792 in Pesaro, Italy, the son of a mother and father that were very involved in the orchestral and operatic world of Italy at the time. His family, once members of the opulaent Itlian upper class, were reduced in means when he arrived, but his father appears to have been a free-spirited, happy man who worked as the town crier and in various orchestras playing piano. His mother was an aspiring singer and dressmaker. His parents traveled quite a lot on performance tours, teaching Rossini the basic of rhythm and classical performance on piano. Piano, in particular, was his forte, due to an intense wish to please his mother in the instrument. From these roots, Rossini gained both his charm and his love of music.

Rossini was admitted into the Liceo Musicale in Bologna, where he excelled in viola, cello, singing and composition. His school in Bologna is still standing today, now called the G.B. Martini Conservatorio di Musica. School led to a commission in Venice to produce a small opera, which he did to much success. His life after this was very much on the road. He was a thoughtful composer, one with his parent's gift for charm, so he led a rakish, charmed life augmented by a primary respect of his peers and audience. Unlike many composers of his time, though, he was willing to rewrite a piece if the audience made suggestions. Rossini's greatest work had such an impact on his country that he was exempted from military service due to his talent alone. His various relations with nobles and royal families also led to an opulent lifestyle. Through an impresario friend in Naples, he met Isabella Colbran, his mistress and rumored to be his one great love. He married twice, and both marriages were happy ones.

Rossini's first success in opera came in the year 1806, with a production of his first composed opera Demetrio e Polibio. The composer's most famous work produced in his lifetime is undoubtedly the Barber of Seville, however. With the production of Guillaume Tell, his last opera, he established his fame as an international composer. Until 1823 he had been mainly an Italian sensation; after this period he moved to France, where he staged his last opera in 1829. He moved between Paris and Italy for the rest of his life, before dying in Paris in the year 1868.

Rossini's works are known for their dramatic realism and Italian flavor. Like Bellini and Donizetti, he had a knack for expressing characters and plot in music, and his operas are full of dramatic expression that conveys scene and mood to every piece of a show. He is also known for his choice of libretti; the Barber of Seville is actually one of a trilogy that Mozart picked from to write the Marriage of Figaro. His style translated well into drama and comedy. A famous comedy of the composer is La Scala di Seta, and a famous dramatic work is Otello. Rossini did not confine himself to operatic music. He was writing string concertos at the age of eleven, and some of his most famous, the String Sonatas, were written at the age of eleven, under the direction of a private Italian tutor. He wrote church pieces including a famous setting of the Stabat Mater, and volumes of songs and works for voice that are used to this day. Recordings of Rossini's works are widely prevalent.

The most famous works of the composer are, for reference: Demetrio e Polibio, L'equivoco Stravagante, La Scala di Seta, Il Signor Bruschino, Tancredi, Almaviva, Otello, La gazza ladra, Armida, Adina, Ermione, La Donna del Lago, Maometto Secondo, Zelmira, Semiraminde, Le Comte Ory, and Guillaume Tell. His works have been recorded by such famous singers as Pavarotti, Callas, Sutherland, Votto, Scotto, Levine, Patane, Caballe and Freni. For the beginning Rossini listener, I would recommend a recording of the Barber of Seville, as this is the composer's most famous work. To follow this, I would recommend a listening of Guillaume Tell, for this shows the composer's mature considerations toward his operatic style. To finish, I would recommend a listening of Almaviva, a lesser-known work of the composer. This work shows the rich nuances that Rossini's music is capable of, and the heights of excellence that his music can reach.

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