Gioachino Antonio Rossini (29 February 1792 – 13 November 1868) was an Italian composer who wrote 39 operas as well as sacred music, chamber music, songs, and some instrumental and piano pieces. A tendency for inspired, song-like melodies is evident throughout his scores, which led to the nickname "The Italian Mozart".
We often read of he playfulness of Rossini's works and the irony on his musical diction. This vague, pat formula takes on clearer focus when we view it as an attempt to capture in words a sense of ambivalence, a feeling that Rossini distanced himself from the music he wrote in a manner that itself became part of his music. We sense a fracture or rift in his work which conveys the impression that we are dealing with mussy about music.
[Rossini] had scant respect for most of his brother composers. He seldom went to the Opera, but he went once to hear "Tannhauser," and when asked his opinion of it, said: "It is too important and elaborate to be judged after a single hearing, but I shall not give it a second." Somebody once handed him the score of another Wagner music-drama, and presently remarked that he was holding the music upside down. "Well," he replied, "I have already read it the other way, and am trying this, as I can make nothing of it."
Rossini was a man of wit, huge appetites, and a great enjoyment of life. He could eat 20 steaks in a day, and even had one (tournedos Rossini) named after him. He cultivated flowers-and his flowerbeds were shaped like musical instruments. He wrote birthday melodies for his dog, turned his signature into a tune, and once said: "Give me a laundry list and I will set it to music."
His life was somehow comparable to one of his famous crescendos (he composed his first opera at the age of fourteen years) and then as he was preparing a second life came the impromptu early abandonment of musical theater and peaceful retreat in the Parisian countryside. With many more pages to write music.
Despite their huge success, [Rossini] was only 37 when in 1829 he composed his last opera. Guillaume Tell (William Tell), the story of a Swiss hero who rebels against Austrian rule. After its premiere. Rossini worked at the Bologna Conservatoire before settling in Paris to indulge his second love in life, food; indeed he became famous for his gastro-nomical gifts, bequeathing to the world the fillet steak dish Tournedos Rossini.
Inspired by the charismatic Spanish soprano Isabella Colbran, whom he later married, Rossini gradually moved from comic operas to grander, more serious works. His shift in style had its critics; when they met in 1822 Beethoven advised Rossini, “Above all, make more ‘Barbieres.’ ” But his darker operas were tremendously popular, particularly in Paris, where he moved in 1824. In 1829 he secured a contract there for a series of new operas, along with a coveted lifetime pension.
…just a decade later, Rossini, the upstart, had become synonymous with tradition. Pitted against Vincenzo Bellini in a spate of comparions referred to as "parallelomania," Rossini's complexity and "noisiness" suddenly epitomized grace and elegance while the younger composer was perceived as "sentimental." Exiled patriot Guiseppe Mazzini lauded Rossini for "reconsecraing the Italian school," an opinion shared by many of the composer's contemporaries.
In 1813, after having composed his first successful opera, Tandcredi, he was asked to write a couple more for Barbaia, a local theater impresario. Rossini composed a long series for Barbaia, including Il barbiere di Siviglia (“The Barber of Seville”), La gazza ladra ("The Thieving Magpie"), and Semiramide (“Semiramis”).
Rossini was a speedy and prolific composer and his legacy includes nearly forty operas. Moreover, his impact as a composer goes beyond the great number of works he wrote. In particular, the demands of his writing, which calls for great vocal agility, have had a lasting effect on the vocal practices of opera singers, and his innovative style and form have influenced generations of opera composers.
Known as “The Swan of Pesaro,” Rossini was the most popular composer of the first half of the 19th century. Rossini’s highly ornate musical style revolutionized the art form, inaugurating the “Golden Century” of Italian opera.