Gioachino Rossini-Born on Leap Year
Of all the music babies born on February 29, the birth date suits best Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792-1868). At his death he was officially 76 years old, however…we..you do the math.
For years, Rossini was the composer of The Barber of Seville with its Figaro-Figaro-Figaro. Period. Forty years ago, Marilyn Horne came along and all the great Rossini operas began to be revived. (The big tune begins around 5:00)
Di tanti palpiti from Tancredi was a bona fide hit tune, sung and hummed everywhere throughout the 19th century. Rossini retired from opera at 36-He wrote his first opera at 16 and his last, William Tell twenty years later. There followed years of a comfy retirement in Paris in the arms of his mistress Olympe Pellesier. She did not sing, unlike his first wife, diva Isabella Colbran, who not only sang but sang her husband’s music brilliantly.
Rossini was known for his bon mots. William Tell failed at the Paris Opera. It was said to be too long. When told years later Act II would be performed at a special gala in Paris, Rossini remarked “What? Not all of it, surely”.
The composer compared one tenor’s high C to “a chicken having its throat cut”.
My favorite is this appreciation: “Mozart roused my admiration when I was young, he caused me despair when I reached my maturity, and he is the comfort of my old age.”
Stendahl wrote that “Mozart had two instances of joy in his entire life, and Rossini but two instances of melancholy.”
Yet it’s suggested that depression was at the root of Rossini’s long retirement. In Paris he became acquainted with Wagner, and sponsored readings of Tannhauser and Der fliegende Hollander.
A hit’s a hit and we may as well have Figaro:
and for an encore, the lovely dance from yes, Act II of William Tell