Rossini and Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Gioachino Rossini, like many great composers, was born in the right place at the right time. The musical firmament was still mourning the loss of Wolfgang Mozart in 1792 when Rossini was born. His parents were both gifted musicians, and young Gioachino was in a music conservatory by the age of 14. Rossini composed ten operas within the following seven years and had established himself as a gifted composer in the opera buffa style. This genre of comic opera was strikingly different from the rigorous opera seria, but it still managed to acquire some noticeable traits. Primarily, the arias in opera buffe shirk the da capo style of the seria mold. The subject matter deals frequently with common people in every day situations, instead of the mythological gods of seria. Arias often incorporate patter singing, which contrasts strongly with melismatic seria vocal melodies. The buffa style originated in Naples in the early 18th century and spread north through Rome and Bologna. Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Le Nozze di Figaro are considered two paradigmatic examples of this style. Rossini was influenced heavily by Mozart’s work, to the extent that he referred to the Viennese composer as “The admiration of my youth, the desperation of my mature years, the consolation of my old age”.
Il Barbiere di Siviglia was initially the title of a 1782 opera by Giovanni Paisiello. The librettist of Rossini’s Barbiere based his text on Paisillo’s work, but changed the title to Almaviva, in deference to the original composer. The opening night for Rossini’s 1816 opera has earned a degree of notoriety. The event was nearly a week before Rossini’s 34th birthday, and was reportedly a…
…popular operatic form in Rossini’s time, and contained two stanzas followed by embellished variations. The first stanza is in F major, and Rosina joins the count as she introduces the second stanza in C major. Figaro returns the theme to F major as the lovers sing along with him. Ironically, the trio sing of escaping quickly and quietly, they fail to retreat successfully due to the number of forte repetitions and transitions Rossini composed.
Much of the comedy in Barbiere comes from Rossini’s clever adaptation of musical forms and orchestration. His trademark crescendo orchestrations, masterful text setting, and development of aria forms allowed Rossini’s work to flourish throughout Europe. The music and characteristic of his operas influenced a generation of Romanticists, and established a permanent home for Rossini in the history of opera.