My initial reaction when I saw that Rossini lived until he was 76 was one of relief ….. as many other famous composers died short of their years.
However, it appears that during the last 40 years of his life Rossini wrote very little music and his productivity of 39 operas was in his early life – his first opera having been performed when he was only 18!
Born into a musical background and educated at a music school – both his parents were musicians, his mother a singer and his father played the horn and trumpet. So it’s no surprise that Rossini started to compose music at the age of 12 and by the age of 15 he could play the violin, horn and harpsichord and sometimes sang in the theatre to earn extra money. Unlike many teenagers there certainly wasn’t ever going to be a dilemma of what he was going to do on leaving education!!
Mind you, their life wasn’t that of your average family. In 1790 Gioachino’s father was imprisoned for his defiance of the local authorities regarding his position as town trumpeter; and in 1799 and 1800 for republican activism and support of the troops of Napoleon against the Pope’s Austrian backers. This outspokenness and spirit was inherited by Rossini jnr.
Works by Rossini:
Rossini’s personality was reflected in his works; famed for comic operas. In 1810 he wrote his first opera La Cambiale di Matrimonio which was performed in Venice to some success. Amongst his best-known work were The Barber of Seville (1816), Cinderella (1817), and Semiramide (1823). Later he wrote larger-scale dramatic operas, the grand French Opera William Tell (1829) was his best known and longest opera lasting 3 hours 45 minutes. It was at this point that Rossini decided to stop writing operas.
Gaetano Donizetti the Italian Composer remarked on William Tell ‘the first and last acts of the opera were written by Rossini, but the middle act was written by God’.
On Music-Scores.com we have a few of Rossini’s works for you to try for piano and voice (including arrangements William Tell)
In 1815 the Spanish diva opera singer Isabella Colbran’s performed her first Rossini opera, Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra which was a resounding success. Rossini was very much an admirer of Colbran and soon fell in love with her and they married in 1822.
After their retirements they separated and Rossini re-married Olympe Pelissier in 1848.
No one really knows why Rossini retired – various theories include financial stability, varying illness and being mentally exhausted by his operatic life.
This little piece of information made me smile as Rossini obviously never lost his sense of humour …For his 70th Birthday Rossini’s composer friends generously put together for a huge statue in his honour….. despite being very touched by the gesture when he discovered the huge cost his devilish personality suggested “Why not give the money to me, and I’ll stand on the pedestal myself?”
Rossini died at his villa in Passy on November 13, 1868, following a short illness