Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

Born in Pesaro (Region of Marche), Rossini learned about music at a young age from his parents – both musicians – and wrote his first opera at 14, and his second, a comedy, four years later. He received contracts to write additional operas, with a première at La Scala in 1812. The following year Tancredi debuted in Venice to wide success, leading Rossini to compose another 24 operas in 10 years. During this time he became the musical director of Teatro San Carlo in Naples, writing serious operas for performances there, and comedies for other opera houses.

Two of his most well known operas were written for Naples, Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra and Otello, a turning point in musical drama. His operas for Naples contained longer ensembles and an active chorus, with more emphasis on the orchestras; and no overtures. Among his lighthearted operas La Cenerentola (Cinderella) and Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber if Seville) are his most popular – both are listed in the top 20 operas performed in North America.

By 1824, Rossini was in Paris as director of Théâtre Italien and composed several operas including Guillaume Tell (William Tell), his last opera – written in 1829 – and considered his best. The opera was written in less than two weeks and is an intricate blend of rich orchestration, numerous ensembles, elaborate processions, and intricate ballets. He returned to Italy, married his second wife in 1846, and went back to Paris in 1855, living there until his death in 1868. His remains were moved to the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence. Throughout his career, Rossini wrote numerous cantatas, instrumentals, and sacred music.

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Written by Janice Mancuso