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The genial genius of Gioacchino Rossini, composer of ‘William Tell’

Posted in Historical articles, History, Music, Theatre on Friday, 27 April 2012

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This edited article about Rossini originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 696 published on 17 May 1975.

Scene from William Tell, picture, image, illustration

Act III, scene iii of Rossini’s opera, William Tell

Gioacchino Antonio Rossini, the great Italian operatic composer, was born on February 29th, 1792 at Pesaro on the Adriatic where his father was the town trumpeter.

Brought up in an atmosphere of music and the theatre, the young Rossini soon showed signs of his musical talents. His father played the horn in the theatre orchestras and his mother was an opera singer.

He studied music at the Conservatoire in Bologna and learned a great deal from the works of Haydn and Mozart.

At the astonishingly early age of 14, Rossini wrote his first opera, La Cambiale di Matrimonio. By the time he was twenty, he was writing four comic operas a year and at once became a most popular composer.

In 1816, came his most famous and best-loved opera, The Barber of Seville although when it was first performed, it was considered a failure.

His other operas which are often performed today, include The Italian Girl in Algiers, Otello, Cinderella and, of course, the famous opera which was produced in 1829, William Tell.

After the success of William Tell, Rossini was to live for another forty years, but wrote no more operas. After visiting England in 1823, he later settled in Paris where he lived most of the time until his death in 1868.

Rossini’s music is light and gay and the composer had a great gift for flowing melody while his work is highly characteristic of the Italian tradition. He was a great lover of the orchestral crescendo and was noted in his day for his ‘noisy effects’. However, his great musical gifts and theatrical flair have ensured his lasting success and his best music, like that which can be heard in The Barber of Seville has an unfailing, immortal charm.

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