Gioachino Rossini, born February 29, 1792, was an Italian composer. Prolific and expedient, he wrote 39 operas and numerous sacred music, chamber music, and piano pieces. Rossini’s vocal compositions demand great vocal agility and have therefore had a lasting impact on the vocal training of opera singers.
Rossini’s parents were both musicians. His father, Giuseppe, was the official town trumpeter of Pesaro, Italy; his mother, Anna, had a remarkable voice. Although she had no formal musical training, Anna sang on stage. Gioachino, their first child, was born soon after their marriage.
With musical parents came musical influence. Giuseppe’s open support of Napoleon sometimes caused him to lose his employment. With Anna’s singing and Giuseppe sometimes seeking employment opportunities depending upon the current political situation, the family traveled often, allowing Gioachino to be exposed to his parents’ musical passion.
Like many of the composers featured in the IPA Source database, Rossini was a child prodigy. In the town of Lugo in 1802, a young Rossini began formal education in music under the guidance of local priests. At the same time, Rossini began learning horn from his father. In 1804, at the age of 12, one of Rossini’s earliest compositions, six string quartets, were performed with the young Gioachino playing the second violin part.
The Rossini’s moved to Bologna in 1804 with the hope of better employment and better education for young Gioachino. Eventually, he was accepted into Bologna’s Liceo Musicale. During his studies, he also worked at local opera theatres as maestro al cembalo.
In 1810, Rossini’s composition La cambiale di matrimonio was performed.
Listen to Renata Scotto: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRXZF0NAgIw
From the opera Tancredi (1813), IPA texts in our collection:
Listen to Marilyn Horne, Lucia Valentini-Terrani & Agnes Baltsa perform Di tanti palpiti: https://youtu.be/7KWS7Zd8GJ4
By some accounts, Di tanti palpiti (Heartbeats) was one of the most popular tunes of Gioachino Rossini’s career.
From the opera Il barbiere di Siviglia (initially titled Almaviva, ossia L’inutile precauzione), IPA texts in our collection:
- A un dottor della mia sorte
- Cessa di più resistere
- Contro un cor
- Ecco, ridente in cielo
- Il vecchiotto cerca moglie
- La calunnia è un venticello
- Largo al factotum della città
- Quando mi sei vicina
- Se il mio nome saper voi bramate
- Una voce poco fa
The composer Paisiello had already written a much beloved Il barbiere di Siviglia in 1782, so initially, in deference to the popular work, Rossini’s opera on the same subject was entitled Almaviva, ossia L’inutile precauzione (Almaviva, or The Useless Precaution). Rossini’s opera is thought by many to be one of his greatest. Composed and prepared in less than a month, its premiere in 1816 was a near disaster due to a number of stage calamities. Subsequent performances went more smoothly and the opera went on to other Italian cities, London, and New York. Over time, Rossini’s piece came to be known as Il barbiere di Siviglia.
Picking up speed
Rossini picked up composition speed as well as additional commissions for new operas. Between 1817 and 1823, Rossini produced 15 more operas. Here are some selected operas and IPA texts from our collection.
From La donna del lago (1819)
From Maometto Secondo (1820)
From Semiramide (1823)
- Ah dov’è, dov’è il cimento
- Bel raggio lusinghier
- Deh! ti ferma, ti placa, perdona
- In sì barbara sciagura
- Là dal Gange a te primiero
Rossini’s last opera
Guillaume Tell was ultimately Rossini’s last opera but certainly not his last composition.
From Guillaume Tell (1829)
- Asile héréditaire
- Pour notre amour plus d’espérance
- Sois immobile
- Sombre forêt, désert triste et sauvage
Listen to Beverly Sills sing Sombre forêt:
In 1867, Rossini composed the Messa Solennelle, sometimes known as the Petite Messa Solennelle. Selections from this sacred music text on IPA Source:
Messa Solennelle was structured in the tradition of the missa solemnis. Rossini was using a bit of irony when he labeled the work Petite Messa Solennelle. On the last page of the manuscript, he wrote:
“Bon Dieu; la voilà terminée, cette pauvre petite messe. Est-ce bien de la musique sacrée que je viens de faire, ou bien de la sacré musique ? J’étais né pour l’opera buffa, tu le sais bien! Peu de science, un peu de coeur, tout est là. Sois donc béni et accorde-moi le Paradis.”
“Dear God, here it is finished, this poor little Mass. Is this sacred music which I have written or music of the devil? I was born for opera buffa, as you well know. A little science, a little heart, that’s all. Be blessed, then, and admit me to Paradise.”
– Translation from Emanuele Senici (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Rossini (2004) p. 23.
The complete score to Messe Solonelle may be downloaded through IMSLP.org here.
Gioachino Rossini died in Paris on November 13, 1868, where thousands of mourners attended his funeral. Upon the death of his wife, his remains were later relocated to Florence.