Gioachino Rossini (February 29, 1792, Pesaro Italy – November 13, 1868, Passy, France).
Born into a family of musicians on February 29, 1792,
Gioachino Rossini became the epitome of Italian opera. His father a horn player
and his mother a singer, Rossini's musical training began early. By the age of
ten, he had learned to sight-read, play accompaniments and sing well enough to
take solo parts in church. In 1804, when Rossini was twelve years old, appeared
his first compositions—six sonate a Quattro for the unusual combination
of two violins, cello and double bass. The six sonatas were composed in only
three days and show a strong influence of Haydn and Mozart. Soon after came
Rossini's first opera, a set of individual numbers to a libretto by Vincenza
Mombelli, though it would not be staged until several years later when the
composer was twenty years old.
In 1810, at the age of eighteen, Rossini produced his first
opera, La cambiale di matrimonio (The Marriage Contract). More operas
followed during the following three years to varying degrees of success.
However, his first major successes, and the ones that launched his
international career, were the operas Tancredi and L'italiana in
Algeri, both staged in 1813.
Though he had established himself as the leading composer of
Italian opera, Rossini's success waned somewhat after the successes of Tancredi
and L'italiana in Algeri. He returned to Bologna in 1815 and became
musical director of Teatro San Carlo and Teatro del Fondo in Naples, for which
he agreed to compose one opera a year for each theater. The arrangement
provided Rossini with a sizeable income and was a rare lucrative deal for a
On February 20, 1816, Rossini's most famous opera was
premiered—The Barber of Seville. Though based on the same stage play as
a previous opera by Giovanni Paisiello, the libretto for Rossini's opera was
entirely new. However, admirers of Paisiello made certain the premiere of
Rossini's opera was a failure. Despite this setback, Rossini's opera became
incredibly successful and is now, indisputably, the only Barber of Seville.
During the next eight years, Rossini produced another twenty
operas. He lived briefly in Vienna during 1822 and the following year traveled
to London where he met King George IV. Following his return from England, he
spent the years 1824-29 in Paris. In 1829, he produced Guillaume Tell (William Tell), adapted from a play by Schiller.
In the same year, Rossini returned to Bologna and soon
afterwards, his career as a composer more or less ended. What music he did
compose during the remainder of his life was intended only for private
audiences and consisted mostly of short pieces for solo piano, or occasionally
for voice or chamber ensemble. These later pieces show a definite influence of
Beethoven and Chopin and Rossini's own attempt at serious composition. Due to
political unrest, Rossini left Bologna in 1848 and ultimately settled in Paris
in 1855. At the age of seventy-six, Rossini died of pneumonia on November 13,
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