Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.
His father Giuseppe was an inspector of slaughter houses until he was arrested in 1796 for French Revolutionary sympathies by the Austrians. While he was imprisoned his wife and son moved to Bologna were she made a living singing in theaters and upon Giuseppe’s release he joined her as a horn player in the bands where she sang.
Because his grandmother couldn’t handle him while his mom and dad were on the road, Rossini was apprenticed to a pork butcher and received his first musical instruction, which was not of very high quality. After about 3 years he switched to a blacksmith and found some better teachers. He had composed 6 String Sonatas by the age of twelve.
By the time he was 14 he had already composed his first Opera (though it would not be staged until he was 20) and he also gained admission to the Bologna Conservatory where he studied for 4 years before the debut of his first commercial production.
Italian music is all about the Opera and it’s hard to find a composer of note who hasn’t written a dozen or two. Rossini’s rise to fame was meteoric and by 21 he had already retired and had to be coaxed out of it at 23 when he received an offer from a Naples theater impresario he couldn’t refuse. In return for one Opera a year, 200 ducats a month and a cut from the tables in the theater Casino.
The Barber of Seville, while one of Rossini’s most famous, premiered to some controversy. Giovanni Paisiello had already written a fairly popular Opera with the same name and subject 25 years earlier and his supporters protested the opening with boos and cat-calls.
After his return to the stage Rossini produced about 20 Operas by 1823, some of the librettos of which were highly bowdlerized to appeal to the tastes of his audience. In 1822 he married one of his leading ladies and made a trip to Vienna where he was highly celebrated. After that he went to London where George IV gave him 7000 pounds for 5 months work, and then to Paris where he made 800 pounds a year as the Director of the Theatre des Italiens plus a contract from Charles X for 5 Operas a year.
He stayed there for 5 years before returning to Bologna in 1829. After that he composed but sporadically. His first wife died in 1845, he remarried in 1846. After leaving Bologna in 1848 due to the political unrest he eventually took up permanent residence in Paris where he devoted himself to the life of a foodie. At the time of his death in 1868 he was acclaimed as the greatest composer of Opera ever known.
The piece I have selected tonight is one of his Sins of Old Age, Salon Music he composed at his home in Paris after his retirement. This particular one, La Regata Veneziana, is a three song cycle posted by GermanOperaSinger and featuring Renata Tebaldi. She was born in Pesaro, the very same town as Rossini.