Composing an Eternal Heritage

Applauded for his talent and quick ability to compose, Rossini's appearance was pleasing and elegant. His face revealed sophistication with a penetrating glance that was both dynamic and arresting. His nose was straight in his oval face with a smile that was both caustic and congenial. A virile attraction exuded from his personality that was fascinating and magnetic. Several anecdotes surround the musical reputation of Rossini. Well-known for his fast compositions, Rossini was supposed to have composed, 'Barbiere', in a very short time as he was late in delivering his masterpiece. Rossini often worked in the comfort of his bedroom, sometimes without shaving which a friend pointed out was very funny when he was composing the 'Barbiere'. Rossini with his quick wit replied that if he did take time to shave, then his opera would never have been completed. Another fascinating facet of Rossini is revealed in his fast and quick delivery of work. As Rossini was composing one day in bed, an Impresario walked in. Without even looking up, Rossini requested him to pick up a sheet of music that had fallen off the bed. As the Impresario picked it up, Rossini gave him another sheet of paper and asked him which one was better. The Impresario, looking confused said that both the sheets of music were almost alike. Rossini replied that it would have taken him the same amount of time to get off the bed to pick up the sheet of paper as it would have taken him to write the same piece of music again!

As quoted by Rossini himself, he was very happy to describe his virtues: here is what he is supposed to have said when he was composing his overtures:

"Wait until the evening before opening night. Nothing primes inspiration more than necessity, whether it be the presence of a copyist waiting for your work or the prodding of an impresario tearing his hair. In my time, all the impresarios of Italy were bald at 30. . . ." "I wrote the overture of Otello in a small room of the Palazzo Barbaja, where the baldest and rudest of directors had shut me in". "I wrote the overture of the Gazza Ladra the day before the opening night under the roof of the Scala Theatre, where I had been imprisoned by the director and secured by four stagehands". "For the Barbiere, I did better: I did not even compose an overture, I just took one already destined for an opera called Elisabetta. Public was very pleased".

His plagiarized libretto, 'Il Barbiere di Siviglia' (1816), taken from Beaumarchais' 'Barbier de Seville' by Sterbini and the same as that of Giovanni Paisiello's 'Barbiere', won him a legacy of popularity in spite of much opposition. Rossini produced more than twenty operas between 1815 and 1823, his dramatic operas being, 'Otello' and 'Guilluame Tell'or William Tell (the overture of which is popularly known for being the theme song for The Lone Ranger), 'Cinderella', 'La Cenerentola', 'Mose in Egitto' with its popular chorus of 'Dal tuo stellato Soglio', 'Semiramide' and 'Zelmira' amongst other memorable and famous compositions. His musical writing comprised of a mannerism which earned him the nickname, "Monsieur Crescendo".

An invitation from Prince Metternich brought him to Verona to "assist in the general re-establishing of harmony". Rossini made friends with prominent personalities such as, Chateaubriand and Madame de Lieven at the opening of the Congress on 20th October, 1822. With his reputation preceding him, Rossini was invited by the manager of the King's Theatre in London. Greeted with enthusiasm by the Parisians on route to England, Rossini was introduced to King George IV after a warm welcome. He received a generous amount of seven thousand pounds at the end of his five month stay in England. Very much in demand, Rossini accepted the post of music director in 1824, of the Theatre Italien in Paris with the income of eight hundred pounds per annum. At the end of this stint, he was awarded the office of Chief Composer to the King and Inspector-General of singing in France with the same income.

The face of opera changed with the production of Rossini's 'Guillaume Tell' as it evolved with the libretto by Etienne Jouy and Hippolyte Bis with the version revised by Armand Marrast. Anxious to be with his father after the death of his mother in 1827, Rossini returned to Bologna in 1829. With the abdication of Charles X and the July Revolution of 1830, Rossini however returned to Paris to complete 'Faust'. 'Stabat Mater was written in 1832, with the rest of the movements completed in 1839, the year that his father passed away. His wife died in 1845, and Rossini married Olympe Pelissier after two years. With years of a swift rise to triumph and years of seclusion opens facets of humility, cynical wit and erratic compositions of Rossini, the legend. Rossini lived in Florence for a while and moved to Paris in 1855. His house in France was famous as the center of artistic people and events. Rossini died at his country house at Passy on November 13th, 1868, and was buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France.