The Italian Almanac


More about Rossini
William Tell Overture

Gioacchino Rossini

Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868)

Composer, born in Pesaro, Italy. He studied in Bologna, and began to write comic operas. Among his early successes were Tancredi (1813) and L'Italiana in Algeri (1813, The Italian Girl in Algiers), and in 1816 he produced his masterpiece, Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). As director of the Italian Theatre in Paris (1823), he adapted several of his works to French taste, and wrote Guillaume Tell (1829, William Tell). In 1836 he retired to Bologna and took charge of the Liceo, which he raised to a high position in the world of music. The revolutionary disturbances in 1847 drove him to Florence, and he returned in 1855 to Paris. Later works include his Stabat Mater (1841) and the Petite messe solennelle (1863). His overtures in particular have continued to be highly popular items in concert programmes.

Rossini occupied an unrivalled position in the Italian musical world of his time, winning considerable success relatively early in his career. The son of a horn-player and a mother who made a career for herself in opera, as a boy he had direct experience of operatic performance, both in the orchestra pit and on stage. His operas from his first relative success in 1810 until 1823 were first performed in Italy. There followed a period of success in Paris, leading to his final opera, Guillaume Tell, staged in Paris in 1829. The revolution of 1830 prevented the fulfilment of French royal commissions for the theatre, but in his later life he continued to enjoy considerable esteem, both in Paris, where he spent much of his last years, and in his native Italy. There he spent the years from 1837 until 1855, before returning finally to France, where he died in 1868.