February 1792-13th November 1868)
He was a
composer born Gioachino Antonio Rossini in Pesaro, Italy.He came from a musical family where his father was a horn player and
his mother was a singer.
He received his
musical education from his parents when he was very young and by the time
he was just six years old he was allowed to be the triangle player with his
father’s ensemble.However, this would change by the time he was seven as his father
was imprisoned in 1799 for being a French Revolution sympathiser.His mother moved the family to Bologna where she sang in theatres to earn money
and he would often be left being cared for by his grandmother.However, by 1800 his father was
granted his release and went to join them.He was then cared for by a pork
butcher while both his parents performed in the theatre as well as being
given further musical education as a harpsichord student for three years.
He went on to
become a blacksmith’s apprentice and received music lessons in piano
accompaniment, reading music on sight and singing to a level where he
became a soloist in church when he was ten.Thanks to his father’s
influence he was also a competent horn player.
His work as a
composer also started while still young and in 1804, when he was twelve, he
wrote six string sonatas in three days.The following year he sang in a
production of Camilla by FerdinandoPaer.Within the next year he wrote
individual music pieces for VincenzaMombelli’s libretto Demetrio e Polibio.Although this would officially be
his first opera it premiered as his others had already been staged when he
He entered the Conservatoriodi Bologna in
1806 to study cello.The next
year he also entered a class in counterpoint which he didn’t enjoy so
much and the strict rules of his teacher pushed him towards the idea of
composition in a freer style.While at Bologna his work in writing scores for Haydn and
Mozart’s works found him being nicknamed “Il Tedeschino” or “The Little
German”.He also won a
prize for a cantata at the Conservatorio which
was entitled Il Piantod’Armonia Sulla Morted’Orfeo.
When he was eighteen
in 1810 he travelled to various areas in Italy and wrote the operas La CambialediMatrimonio,Il
Signor Bruschino and La Pietra del Paragone
in Venice, Rome and Milan.By 1813
his L’Italiana in Algeri
were attracting so much attention that he became internationally known and
an operatic idol in Italy.
In 1815 he returned
home to Bologna and then was given a lucrative contract to write an
opera a year and made musical director of both the Teatro
del Fondo and Teatrodi San Carlo in Naples. His Elisabetta, Reginad’Inghilterra
was favourably received and the singer Isabella Colbran
who appeared in it would later become his wife in 1822.
The following year,
in 1816 he wrote what would become possibly his most famous opera.It was unsuccessful on its first
showing in Rome when it was entitled Almaviva and likened to Barbiere by Giovanni
Paisello.It only took another two or three performances, however, to be
renamed The Barber of Seville and
became a massive hit with the audience of the time and still performed
today. Just a few years
later in 1822 he met Ludwig van Beethoven who congratulated him on this
opera.That same year he
married Isabella Colbran and after spending some
time in Vienna, Austria, he returned to his hometown of Bologna.In
October 1822 he appeared at the Congress of Verona by invitation.
By 1823 he had composed
20 operas including La Cenerentola (Cinderella) and Mose in Egitto and was recognised for
being a pioneer of adapting serious literary works where he turned the opera
into a musical drama with an example being Otello. This is the same year
he performed in Paris and was introduced to King George IV after being invited
to Britain to perform at the King’s Theatre in London.
In 1824 he returned
to France and joined Paris’s Theatre des Italiens
as its musical director, where he stayed until 1829.His success there brought him a
contract from Charles X to write five new operas in the space of a year,
after which he would receive a lifelong pension.
The final opera he
wrote while in Paris was Guillame Tell
(William Tell) was over four hours long and it now rarely performed in
its complete state.However, it
is very well known for its overture which has been used many times over the
years as theme music and in commercials.
By 1829 he was aged 37
and had written 38 operas and it was then that he had decided to return to Bologna to be with his father after his mother had passed away
in 1827. He briefly returned to Paris in 1830 but by that time Charles X had abdicated after
the July Revolution.
In 1832, with his
opera writing day behind him, he became relatively secluded but he did
compose six movements of his Stabat Mater
with a further six written by Giovanni Tadolini
at Rossini’s request.After
a period of nine years, however, he did eventually complete the score in
In 1845 his wife,
Isabella, died after they had been separated for several years and the next
year he got married to the artist’s model OlympePelissier. He and his wife left Bologna in 1848 and after residing in Florence for a while they moved to Paris, where they settled in 1855.
His time in Paris saw him almost completely retiring as a composer and
moving onto his love of food as a chef and a gourmand.Indeed, there are several dishes that
were created for him including the steak course Tournedos Rossini which is
still served today.
He did, however,
continue to write small pieces of music for private use over the last years
of his life, often for solo piano.Some of these were published in the collection Peches de Viellesse (Sins of Old Age).He also wrote the choral work Petite
MesseSolennelle and a
cantata for the Exhibition Universelle.
After several years
of physical and mental health problems he passed away in Passy, France, on November 1868 suffering from pneumonia. He was buried in Paris but later returned to Italy by request of the government where he has now been
laid to rest in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence.Aside
from leaving individual bequests to his family he left the rest of his
fortune to the town of Pesaro where he was born.The town used it to establish a
music conservatory which became the ConservatorioStatalediMusica “Gioachino
Rossini” in 1940.It was
an original sponsor of the Rossini Opera Festival, which it still supports
today.The Prix Rossini is also
a bequest provided by his estate and has been given exclusively to young French
librettists and composers since the death of his widow in 1878.