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Gioachino Rossini in 1820

Gioachino Antonio Rossini[1] (February 29, 1792 – November 13, 1868) was an Italian composer who wrote 39 operas as well as sacred music, chamber music, songs, and some instrumental and piano pieces. His best known operatic works include Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), La Cenerentola, La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie) and Guillaume Tell (William Tell). A tendency for inspired, song-like melodies is evident throughout his scores, which led to the nickname "The Italian Mozart." Until his retirement in 1829, Rossini had been the most popular opera composer in history. [2]

Contents

Biography

Early photograph of Gioachino Rossini (Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin)

Gioachino Antonio Rossini was born into a family of musicians in Pesaro, a town on the Adriatic coast of Italy. His father, Giuseppe, was a horn player and inspector of slaughterhouses. His mother, Anna, was a singer and a baker's daughter. Rossini's parents began his musical training early, and by the age of six he was playing the triangle in his father's musical group.

Rossini's father was sympathetic to the French Revolution and welcomed Napoleon Bonaparte's troops when they arrived in northern Italy. When Austria restored the old regime in 1796, Rossini's father was sent to prison and his mother took him to Bologna, making a living as a leading singer at various theatres of the Romagna region. Her husband would ultimately join her in Bologna. During this time, Rossini was frequently left in the care of his aging grandmother, who had difficulty supervising the boy.

He remained at Bologna in the care of a pork butcher while his father played the horn in the orchestras of the theatres at which his wife sang. The boy had three years of instruction in the playing of the harpsichord from the eccentric Giuseppe Prinetti, of Novara, who played the scale with two fingers only; Prinetti also owned a business selling beer and had a propensity to fall asleep while standing. These qualities made him a fit subject for ridicule in the eyes of his student.

Education

He was eventually taken from Prinetti and apprenticed to a blacksmith. In Angelo Tesei, he found a congenial music master, and learned to sight-read, to play accompaniments on the piano, and to sing well enough to take solo parts in the church when he was ten years of age. Important from this period are six sonate a quattro, or string sonatas, composed in three days, unusually scored for two violins, cello and double bass. The original scores were found in the Library of Congress in Washington DC after World War II, dated from 1804 when the composer was twelve. Often transcribed for string orchestra, these sonatas reveal the young composer's affinity for Haydn and Mozart, already showing signs of operatic tendancies, punctuated by frequent rhythmic changes and dominated by clear, songlike melodies.

In 1805 he appeared at the theatre of the Commune in Ferdinando Paer's Camilla; his only public appearance as a singer. He was also a capable horn player, treading in the footsteps of his father. Around this time, he composed individual numbers to a libretto by Vincenza Mombelli called Demetrio e Polibio, which was handed to the boy in pieces. Though it was Rossini's first opera, written when he was thirteen or fourteen, the work was not staged until the composer was twenty years old, premiering as his sixth official opera.

In 1806 Rossini became a cello student under Cavedagni at the Conservatorio di Bologna. The following year he was admitted to the counterpoint class of Padre Stanislao Mattei (1750–1825). He learned to play the cello with ease, but the pedantic severity of Mattei's views on counterpoint only served to drive the young composer's views toward a freer school of composition. His insight into orchestral resources is generally ascribed not to the strict compositional rules he learned from Mattei, but to knowledge gained independently while scoring the quartets and symphonies of Haydn and Mozart. At Bologna , he was known as "il Tedeschino" ("the Little German") on account of his devotion to Mozart.

Early career

Through the friendly interposition of the Marquis Cavalli, his first opera, La cambiale di matrimonio (The Marriage Contract), was produced at Venice when he was a youth of 18 years. But two years before this he had already received the prize at the Conservatorio of Bologna for his cantata Il pianto d'Armonia sulla morte d’Orfeo. Between 1810 and 1813 at Bologna, Rome, Venice and Milan, Rossini produced operas of varying success, most notably La pietra del paragone and Il Signor Bruschino, with its brilliant and unique overture. In 1813, Tancredi and L'Italiana in Algeri were even bigger successes, and catapulted the 20-year-old composer to international fame.

The libretto for Tancredi was an arrangement by Gaetano Rossi of Voltaire's tragedy Tancrède. Traces of Ferdinando Paer and Giovanni Paisiello were undeniably present in fragments of the music. But any critical feeling on the part of the public was drowned by appreciation of such melodies as "Di tanti palpiti... Mi rivedrai, ti rivedrò", which became so popular that the Italians would sing it in crowds at the law courts until called upon by the judge to desist.

Gioachino Rossini, painted circa 1815 by Vincenzo Camuccini

By his 21st birthday he had established himself as the idol of the Italian opera public. Rossini continued to write operas for Venice and Milan during the next few years, but their reception was tame and in some cases unsatisfactory after the success of Tancredi. In 1815 he retired to his home at Bologna, where Domenico Barbaia, the impresario of the Naples theatre, contacted an agreement that made him musical director of the Teatro San Carlo and the Teatro Del Fondo at Naples.He would compose one opera a year, for each. His payment was to be 200 ducats per month; he was also to receive a share from the gambling tables set in the theatre's "ridotto", amounting to about 1000 ducats per annum. This was an extraordinarily lucrative arrangement for any professional musician at that time.

He visited the Naples conservatory, and although less than four years senior to Mercadante said to the Director, Niccolò Zingarelli, "My compliments Maestro - your young pupil Mercadante begins where we finish".[3]

Some older composers in Naples, notably Zingarelli and Paisiello, were inclined to intrigue against the success of the youthful composer; but all hostility was made futile by the enthusiasm which greeted the court performance of his Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra, in which Isabella Colbran, who subsequently became the composer's wife, took a leading part. The libretto of this opera by Giovanni Schmidt was in many of its incidents an anticipation of those presented to the world a few years later in Sir Walter Scott's Kenilworth. The opera was the first in which Rossini wrote out the ornaments of the airs instead of leaving them to the fancy of the singers, and also the first in which the recitativo secco was replaced by a recitative accompanied by a string quartet.

The Barber of Seville (Il barbiere di Siviglia)

Isabella Colbran

Rossini's most famous opera was produced on February 20, 1816, at the Teatro Argentina in Rome. The libretto, a version of Pierre Beaumarchais' stage play Le Barbier de Séville, was newly written by Cesare Sterbini and not the same as that already used by Giovanni Paisiello in his own Barbiere, an opera which had enjoyed European popularity for more than a quarter of a century. Much is made of how quickly Rossini's opera was written, scholarship generally agreeing upon two or three weeks. Later in life, Rossini claimed to have written the opera in only twelve days. It was a colossal failure when it premiered as Almaviva; Paisiello's admirers were extremely indignant, sabotaging the production by whistling and shouting during the entire first act. However, not long after the second performance, the opera became so successful that the fame of Paisiello's opera was transferred to Rossini's, to which the title The Barber of Seville passed as an inalienable heritage.

Later in 1822, a 30-year-old Rossini succeeded in meeting Beethoven, who was then aged 51, deaf, cantankerous, and in failing health. Communicating in writing, Beethoven noted that: “Ah, Rossini. So you’re the composer of The Barber of Seville. I congratulate you. It will be played as long as Italian opera exists. Never try to write anything else but opera buffa; any other style would do violence to your nature.”[4]

Marriage and mid-career

Between 1815 and 1823 Rossini produced 20 operas. Of these Otello formed the climax to his reform of serious opera, and offers a suggestive contrast with the treatment of the same subject at a similar point of artistic development by the composer Giuseppe Verdi. In Rossini's time the tragic close was so distasteful to the public of Rome that it was necessary to invent a happy conclusion to Otello.

Caricature by H. Mailly on the cover of Le Hanneton, July 4, 1867

Conditions of stage production in 1817 are illustrated by Rossini's acceptance of the subject of Cinderella for a libretto only on the condition that the supernatural element should be omitted. The opera La Cenerentola was as successful as Barbiere. The absence of a similar precaution in construction of his Mosè in Egitto led to disaster in the scene depicting the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea, when the defects in stage contrivance always raised a laugh, so that the composer was at length compelled to introduce the chorus "Dal tuo stellato soglio" to divert attention from the dividing waves.

In 1822, four years after the production of this work, Rossini married the renowned opera singer Isabella Colbran. In the same year, he moved from Italy to Vienna where his operas were the rage of the audiences. He directed his Cenerentola in Vienna, where Zelmira was also performed. After this he returned to Bologna; but an invitation from Prince Metternich to come to Verona and "assist in the general re-establishment of harmony" was too tempting to be refused, and he arrived at the Congress in time for its opening on October 20, 1822. Here he made friends with Chateaubriand and Dorothea Lieven.

In 1823, at the suggestion of the manager of the King's Theatre, London, he came to England, being much fêted on his way through Paris. In England he was given a generous welcome, which included an introduction to King George IV and the receipt of £7000 after a residence of five months. The next year, he became musical director of the Théâtre des Italiens in Paris at a salary of £800 per annum. Rossini’s popularity in Paris was so great that Charles X gave him a contract to write five new operas a year; and at the expiration of the contract, he was to receive a generous pension for life.

End of career

Gioachino Rossini, photographed by Félix Nadar, 1858

During his Paris years, between 1824 and 1829, Rossini created the comic opera Le Comte Ory and Guillaume Tell (William Tell). The production of his Guillaume Tell in 1829 brought his career as a writer of opera to a close. He was thirty-eight years old, and had already composed thirty-eight operas. Guillaume Tell was a political epic adapted from Schiller’s play (1804) about the thirteenth century Swiss patriot who rallied his country against the Austrians. The libretto was by Étienne Jouy and Hippolyte Bis, but their version was revised by Armand Marrast[5]. The music is remarkable for its freedom from the conventions discovered and utilized by Rossini in his earlier works, and marks a transitional stage in the history of opera, the overture serving as a model for romantic overtures throughout the 19th century. Though an excellent opera, it is rarely heard uncut today, as the original score runs more than four hours in performance. The overture is one of the most famous and frequently recorded works in the classical repertoire.

In 1829 he returned to Bologna. His mother had died in 1827, and he was anxious to be with his father. Arrangements for his subsequent return to Paris on a new agreement were temporarily upset by the abdication of Charles X and the July Revolution of 1830. Rossini, who had been considering the subject of Faust for a new opera, did return, however, to Paris in November of that year.

Six movements of his Stabat Mater were written in 1832 by Rossini himself, and the other six by Giovanni Tadolini, a good musician who was asked by Rossini to complete the work. However, Rossini composed the rest of the score in 1841. The success of the work bears comparison with his achievements in opera; but his comparative silence during the period from 1832 to his death in 1868 makes his biography appear almost like the narrative of two lives—the life of swift triumph, and the long life of seclusion, of which biographers give us pictures in stories of the composer's cynical wit, his speculations in fish culture, his mask of humility and indifference.

Later years

Gioachino Rossini, photographed by Étienne Carjat, 1865

His first wife died in 1845, and on August 16, 1846, he married Olympe Pélissier, who had sat for Vernet for his picture of Judith and Holofernes. Political disturbances compelled Rossini to leave Bologna in 1848. After living for a time in Florence, he settled in Paris in 1855, where his house was a centre of artistic society. Rossini had been a well-known gourmand and an excellent amateur chef his entire life, but he indulged these two passions fully once he retired from composing, and today there are a number of dishes with the appendage "alla Rossini" to their names that were either created by him or specifically for him. Probably the most famous of these is Tournedos Rossini, still served by many restaurants today.

In the meantime, after years of various physical and mental illnesses, he had slowly returned to music, composing obscure little trifles intended for private performance. These Péchés de vieillesse ("Sins of Old Age") are grouped into 14 volumes, mostly for solo piano, occasionally for voice and various chamber ensembles. Often whimsical, these pieces display Rossini’s natural ease of composition and gift for melody, showing obvious influences of Bellini, with many flashes of the composer’s long buried desire for serious, academic composition. He died at his country house at Passy on Friday November 13, 1868, brought about by complications following a heart attack. He was buried in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France. In 1887, his remains were moved to the Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze, in Florence, at the request of the Italian government.

Rossini's now-empty tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris

Honors and tributes

He was a foreign associate of the institute, grand officer of the Legion of Honour, and the recipient of innumerable orders.

Immediately after Rossini's death, Giuseppe Verdi proposed to collaborate with 12 other Italian composers on a "Requiem for Rossini", to be performed on the first anniversary of his death, conducted by Angelo Mariani. The music was written, but the performance was abandoned shortly before its scheduled premiere. Verdi re-used the Libera me, Domine he had written for the Rossini Requiem in his 1872 Requiem for Manzoni. In 1989, the conductor Helmuth Rilling recorded the original "Requiem for Rossini" in the world premiere.

Notes

Portrait of Gioachino Rossini by Francesco Hayez, 1870.
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

In his compositions, Rossini plagiarized freely from himself, a common practice among deadline-pressed opera composers of the time. Few of his operas are without such admixtures, frankly introduced in the form of arias or overtures. For example, in Il Barbiere there is an aria for the Count (often omitted) 'Cessa di piu resistere', which Rossini used (with minor changes) in the cantata Le Nozze di Teti e di Peleo and in La Cenerentola (the cabaletta for Angelina's Rondo is almost unchanged). Moreover, four of his best known overtures, namely those of (La cambiale di matrimonio, Tancredi, La Cenerentola and The Barber of Seville), share operas apart from those with which they are most famously associated.

A characteristic mannerism in Rossini's orchestral scoring, a long, steady building of sound over an ostinato figure, creating "tempests in teapots by beginning in a whisper and rising to a flashing, glittering storm" .[6] earned him the nickname of "Signor Crescendo".

A few of Rossini's operas remained popular throughout his lifetime and continuously since his demise; others were resurrected from semi-obscurity in the last half of the 20th century, during the so-called "bel canto revival". According to Herbert Weinstock's 1968 biography (see below), the composer's estate was valued at 2.5 million francs upon his death in 1868, the equivalent of about 1.4 million US dollars.

Works

See List of operas by Rossini and List of compositions by Gioachino Rossini.

Rossini's final resting place, in the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence

References

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

  • Burton D. Fisher, The Barber of Seville (Opera Classics Library Series). Grand Rapids: Opera Journeys, 2005.
  • H. Weinstock, Rossini: A Biography (New York, 1968)
  • J. W. K. Rossini Herbert Weinstock, Music & Letters, Vol. 50, No. 1, 50th Anniversary Issue (January 1969), 182-185 (Oxford University Press) http://www.jstor.org/stable/73291
  • Richard Osborne, Rossini: His Life and Works (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)
  • Richard Osborne, "Rossini" in The Musical Times, Vol. 127, No. 1726 (December 1986), 691 (Musical Times Publications Ltd.) http://www.jstor.org/stable/964669
  • Philip Gossett, "Rossini, Gioachino" in Grove Music Online (Oxford Music Online, November 17, 2009)
  • Michael Steen, The Lives and Times of the Great Composers (NY: Oxford University Press, 2004)

Notes

  1. ^ "Though "Gioacchino" is the familiar spelling of the name, Rossini himself more usually adopted the spelling "Gioachino". This is now the accepted spelling of his first name" - Richard Osborne: Rossini (The Master Musicians series), London: Dent, 1986, p. xv. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1992), edited by Stanley Sadie, vol 4, pp 56-67 and elsewhere, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians and most Rossini scholars (including the Fondazione G. Rossini [1] and the Center for Italian Opera Studies at the University of Chicago [2]) use "Gioachino".
  2. ^ Fisher, Burton D. The Barber of Seville (Opera Classics Library Series). Grand Rapids: Opera Journeys, 2005.
  3. ^ Michael Rose, "Mercadante: Flute Concertos", booklet accompanying the 2004 RCA CD recording with James Galway and I Solisti Veneti under Claudio Scimone.
  4. ^ Fisher, Burton D. The Barber of Seville (Opera Classics Library Series)
  5. ^ See Les aventures militaires, littéraires et autres d'Etienne de Jouy by Michel Faul pp.139–141(Editions Seguier, France, March 2009, ISBN 978-2-8404-9556-7)
  6. ^ Faddis, H., 2003, Program Notes for the Overture to La scala di seta, Cape Anne Symphony (accessed 2 May 2007); See also Rossini Overtures, Liner Notes, Chandos (Chan 9753)

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792-02-291868-11-13) was an Italian composer who lived for much of his adult life in France. He is best remembered for the approximately 40 operas he wrote in his youth, though his chamber music and sacred works are also highly regarded by many.

Sourced

  • Je le prends deux fois par semaine, Haydn quatre fois et Mozart tous les jours. Vous me direz, Beethoven est un colosse, qui vous donne souvent des coups de poing dans les côtes, tandisque Mozart est toujours adorable. C'est que lui a eu la chance d'aller très jeune en Italie à un époque, où l'on chantait encore bien.
    • I take him [Beethoven] twice a week, Haydn four times, and Mozart every day. You will tell me that Beethoven is a Colossus who often gives you a dig in the ribs, whilst Mozart is always adorable; it is that the latter had the chance of going very young to Italy, at a time when they still sang well.
    • Alfred Christlieb Kalischer Beethoven und seine Zeitgenossen (1908) p. 83. Translation from Charlotte Moscheles (trans. A. D. Coleridge) Life of Moscheles (1873) vol. 2, p. 275.
  • Bon Dieu; la voilà terminée, cette pauvre petite messe. Est-ce bien de la musique sacrée que je viens de faire, ou bien de la sacré musique ? J'étais né pour l'opera buffa, tu le sais bien! Peu de science, un peu de coeur, tout est là. Sois donc béni et accorde-moi le Paradis.
    • Dear God, here it is finished, this poor little Mass. Is this sacred music which I have written or music of the devil? I was born for opera buffa, as you well know. A little science, a little heart, that's all. Be blessed, then, and admit me to Paradise.
    • Epigraph to his Petite Messe Solennelle (1863). Translation from Emanuele Senici (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Rossini (2004) p. 23.
  • Cette petite composition qui est, hélas, le dernier péché mortel de ma vieillesse.
    • This little composition, which is, alas, the last mortal sin of my old age.
    • Introductory note to the Petite Messe Solennelle. Translation from Justin Wintle (ed.) Makers of Nineteenth Century Culture (2002) vol. 2, p. 527.
  • Monsieur Wagner a de beaux moments, mais de mauvais quart d'heures.
    • Monsieur Wagner has good moments, but awful quarters of an hour!
    • Letter to Emile Naumann, April 1867, quoted in E Naumann Italienische Tondichter (1883) vol. 4, p. 5. Translation from The Riverside Dictionary of Biography (2005) p. 689.
  • Melodia semplice e varietà nel ritmo.
    • Simple melody and variety in rhythm.
    • His motto for Italian music, formulated in a letter to Filippo Filippi, August 26, 1868; Luca Somigli Legitimizing the Artist (2003) p. 103.
    • Often misquoted as "Simple melody – clear rhythm!"
  • Aspettate fino alla sera prima del giorno fissato per la rappresentazione. Nessuna cosa eccita più l'estro come la necessità, la presenza d'un copista, che aspetta il vostro lavoro e la ressa d'un impresario in angustie, che si strappa a ciocche i capelli. A tempo mio in Italia tutti gli impresari erano calvi a trent'anni.
    • Wait until the evening before opening night. Nothing primes inspiration more than necessity, whether it be the presence of a copyist waiting for your work or the prodding of an impresario tearing his hair. In my time, all the impresarios in Italy were bald at thirty.
    • From an undated letter, published in Luigi Rognoni Gioacchino Rossini (1968) p. 337. Translation from Josiah Fisk and Jeff Nichols (eds.) Composers on Music (1997) p. 67.
    • On the right time to write an overture.

Criticism

  • Rossini, in music, is the genius of sheer animal spirits. It is a species as inferior to that of Mozart, as the cleverness of a smart boy is to that of a man of sentiment; but it is genius nevertheless.
    • Leigh Hunt, "Going to the Play Again", The Companion (1828) p. 14.
  • Rossini, divino Maestro, Helios von Italien, der du deine klingenden Strahlen über die Welt verbreitest!
    • Rossini, divino Maestro, Helios of Italy, spreading your rays over the world!
    • Heinrich Heine Reisebilder, Part 3, chap. 19 [1]; translation from Laura Bandiera & Diego Saglia (eds.) British Romanticism and Italian Literature (2005) p. 157.
  • His moral deficiencies as an artist were quite extraordinary. When he found the natural superiority of his genius in conflict with the ignorance and frivolity of the public – and the musical ignorance and frivolity of the Venetians and Neapolitans can hardly be overstated – he surrendered without a struggle. Although he was so able a man that it was easier and pleasanter to him to do his work intelligently than to conventionalize it and write down to the popular taste, he never persevered in any innovation that was not well received.

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File:Gioachino Rossini
Gioachino Rossini

Gioachino Rossini (born Pesaro 29 February 1792; died Passy 13 November 1868) was an Italian composer. He was the most famous composer of operas in his time. His operas had lots of new ideas. Italian operas had become rather unimaginative, with composers such as Cimarosa and Paisiello writing the same sort of thing each time. Rossini made his operas interesting by writing skillfully for the singers, giving them good tunes, as well as giving the orchestra interesting music, and by choosing a variety of stories for his operas. The opera for which he is best known today is the Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). Many of the overtures to his operas are played at orchestral concerts. The most popular is the overture to his opera Guillaume Tell (William Tell) with its famous galloping tune.

During the last 40 years of his life Rossini wrote no more music. His friends begged him to write another opera but he always refused.

Contents

Life

Rossini was born on 29 February of the leap year 1792. His birthplace was Pesaro, a small town in Italy on the Adriatic coast. His father played the horn in military bands and opera houses and his mother sang in operas. Often his parents toured together and the young Rossini was left in the care of his grandmother. The family eventually settled in Bologna. Rossini had lessons in singing, cello, piano and counterpoint. He did not like the counterpoint lessons, but it did help him to study different styles of music and he became very good at writing harmony in a clear way.

Early career

Italian opera at this time needed a new composer to bring more life into it. Five of his first nine operas were written for the Teatro S Moise in Venice. Other theatres soon asked him to write operas. In 1812 he wrote La pietra del paragone for the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. It was a great success. Many of these early operas were comic operas (opera buffa). Sometimes he had to produce so many new operas that he kept reusing some of the music he had already written in another opera. Nevertheless they include a lot of fine music, and Rossini was developing his musical personality. His overtures have a fine sense of orchestral colour. He often started with a slow section and then went into fast music with a crescendo. Because he did this a lot it is often called a “Rossini crescendo” or “Rossini rocket”.

It was not easy for him to earn enough money to keep himself. He only got paid for the operas he took part in. There were no copyright laws in those days. The important singers were well paid, but the composers earned much less. We know very little about his life at this time, but we do know that he travelled a lot. His most famous operas from this period are Tancredi, La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) and Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) which has often been called the greatest of all comic operas.

Mid career

By 1815 Rossini’s operas were famous everywhere in Western Europe except in Naples. Neapolitan opera had been famous throughout the 18th century and the city was proud of its tradition. The Neapolitans did not want a young composer from the north to continue their operatic tradition. Nevertheless, Rossini soon won their hearts. He wrote for the Teatro S Carlo which had a fine orchestra and very good singers. He wrote many of his best serious operas (opera seria) for Naples, and this tradition which he built up made it possible for Verdi to take over thirty years later as Italy’s leading opera composer.

Later career

Rossini’s international fame took him to Vienna where he met Beethoven. After returning to Italy for a while he travelled to Paris and England. He was only 31 years old and had written 34 operas. The Paris audiences already knew his operas. In London a Rossini Festival was organized. Most of the time in England he spent at social parties at the houses of rich people who were glad to pay him money to come and be their guest. Soon after this he settled in Paris for five years. He was director of the Théâtre-Italien until 1836. His two greatest operas from this period were Le Comte Ory (which was an opéra comique) and Guillaume Tell which was based on a play by Schiller. These works have beautifully flowing tunes (like Italian opera) as well as grand drama (like French opera).

Retirement

In 1829, at the age of 37, Rossini decided to retire. He had lots of money and his health was not particularly good. Although he wrote a few small pieces of music he never composed another opera. He went back to Bologna, although he returned to Paris nearly 20 years later with his wife. Here his health improved and he wrote a little music. His Petite messe solennelle for 12 voices, two pianos and harmonium is still performed today. When he died in 1868 thousands of people came to his funeral.

Rossini’s place in music history

Rossini’s music is a link between the Classical and the Romantic periods. He was brought up hearing 18th century opera, and much of his best known music is still Classical in style, but he developed a lot as he matured and was writing in a more Romantic way by the end of his career. He gradually stopped writing music which has set numbers all the time: music divided sharply into arias and recitative. His recitative became more expressive and was accompanied by the orchestra instead of by a harpsichord. This helped to make his music more continuous. He did not often write for castrati as they were going out of fashion. The chorus have an important part in the drama of his operas (in 18th century opera they just used to comment on what was going on).


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