Rossini, Gioachino Antonio

The following year Rossini composed for the Corso at Bologna another light opera, entitled L'Equivoco stravagante. With his twentieth year begins his period of improvisation and in that year 1812 he produced   two light operas, beside four other pieces for the theatre, and an oratorio. The following year the composer was equally prolific; then came Felice. The foundation of Rossini's fame was really laid by the production of this opera. Rossini was only twenty when he achieved his greatest popularity with the production of Tancredi at Venice in 1812. In this opera the composer gave the public, that had been wearied by a number of dull works, something new and vital. All northern Italy was enthusiastic over it and in the music a new step in the master's career was marked. These early operatic successes helped Rossini to gain access to the Academy of Royal Music, where three of his Italian operas, Le Siege de Corinthe, Moüse and Le Comte Ory were brought out. These were followed by numerous other operas, all written in Rossini's most popular vein. Some of them contain many melodious airs, but none enjoyed a very great degree of popularity. In the year 1815 Rossini was appointed director of the music at the theatre of San Carlo and the Del Fondo, in Naples, by their manager Barbaja, and was engaged to compose two operas a year, to be brought out at the two theatres. His first opera for San Carlo was Elizabeth, Queen of -England, which had a great success and was received with marked favor, partly through the efforts of Isabella Colbron, a Spanish singer, then in the highest favor at Naples, and who later became Rossini's wife. While at Naples Rossini wrote the everpopular, vivacious, tuneful work, The Barber of Seville, which is quite as popular at the present time as it was in the lifetime of its composer. The story of Rossini's writing of it is of interest: He had contracted to write two operas for the Roman Carnival of 1816. The first was produced the year before and the story of the Barber was sent to him piece by piece' and he set to work to set it to music, writing it as fast as the verses came in. In less than three weeks the opera was finished, and because of the haste with   which the composer despatched it the trio intended for the music lesson scene was lost, and the composer allowed the prima donna to interpolate something else. Thus an opportunity has been given to all singers of the role of Rosina to give any song they like in that portion of the opera. The Barber was first produced at Rome, December, 1816, and although it was not well received the first night of its appearance, it was hailed with genuine enthusiasm on the second, and achieved a popularity all over Europe, which has remained to the present day. It is a good specimen of genuine opera buffa, is tuneful and sprightly, with a number of beautiful melodies in it.

This opera was followed by Othello, written for the San Carlo at Naples, with the libretto furnished by a dilettante poet of the city, from the tragedy of Shakespeare. Othello contains some very melodious music and was, like its predecessor The Barber, very successful. In it Rossini broke away from the old Italian dogma that instrumental music should be purely subservient to the singing and recitative and every bit of recitative in Othello was accompanied by instrumental music. Between the years 1817 and 1822, and while still under thirty, Rossini produced some of his greatest works, among them the operas of Armide, Ermione, La donna del Lago and Mabinetto Secondo and the oratorio, Moses in Egypt. The composer remained in Naples seven years, and during that time, he produced about twenty operas for that city, Venice, Milan and Rome. Semiramide was his next success, and it was brought out in Venice in 1823, and received there with marked favor. It is a lyric tragedy with the subject taken from Voltaire's Semiramis. The same year it was produced in Paris and was received there with marked favor. In 1823 Rossini visited London, where he was received with the utmost graciousness by the nobility, and showed many attentions by the reigning monarch, King George IV. He remained in London six months, then went to Paris. Shortly after his arrival in the French city he was appointed director of the Italian opera at the Theatre Italiens, and a few months later inspector of singing. At the Theatre Italiens several of Rossini's operas were produced with a fair degree of success and he was quite as successful a manager as composer. From that time on he was in possession of a large salary from France as composer to the King, a post he was deprived of by the Revolution, but later was granted a pension of six thousand francs.