Oh! The Green Peas!, Morning Hygiene Prelude, Tartar Bolero, and Gherkins - not only the titles of Gioachino Rossini’s Péchés de vieillesse (Sins of Old Age), as he called his late musical miniatures, bring Erik Satie to mind: musically speaking, Rossini also anticipates the French composer’s quirkiness in many ways.
The salon pieces are intended for a private setting, and the master prohibits them from being publicly performed.But these miniatures alone are enough to debunk the cliché of the world-famous composer who turned his back on music at the age of 37, after composing 39 operas, to devote himself exclusively to the art of cuisine.
But though he did have an unmistakable streak of hedonism and pronounced sense of humor, Rossini was at the same time a tragic figure who was grappling with the late complications of gonorrhea (having contracted the disease in his youth), in addition to recurrent bouts of depression exacerbated by insomnia and anxiety.
And though he brought his audiences the world over to the point of near-hysteria, his compositions were regarded as more commercial than artistic. Beethoven, his antithesis, urged him to write nothing but comic operas - though these don’t even account for half of his oeuvre
February 29, 1792 (three months after Mozart’s death) born in Pesaro
1810 first performance of a Rossini opera (Il cambiale di matrimonio in Venice)
1813 breakthrough with the opera Tancredi
Starting in 1815, director and resident composer at both opera houses in Naples
1822 travels to Vienna, the city is consumed by the so-called “Rossini craze”
Starting in 1824, director of the Italian opera house in Paris
1829 composes his final opera William Tell
1830 the French king is forced to abdicate, Rossini becomes unemployed but successfully petitions in court for a lifelong pension
Starting in 1836, director of the Bologne music lyceum, where he had begun his own studies in 1802
Starting in 1855, Rossini lives again in Paris, where he dies on November 13, 1868, probably due to complications from intestinal surgery
Did you know?
Rossini gave his first public performance at the age of six, playing the triangle in his father’s orchestra.
As a sign of admiration, Rossini is affectionately known as the “Swan of Pesaro.”
A riot occurs at the 1816 premiere of Il Barbiere di Siviglia in Rome, provoked by followers of composer Giovanni Paisiello, who had set the libretto before Rossini.
Rossini held that the best moment to compose an overture is the evening before the premiere.
When Rossini visits Vienna in 1822, he makes several attempts to meet Beethoven before finally succeeding. Himself rolling in luxury, he is surprised by Beethoven’s humble living conditions. He is hardly able to communicate with the master, who is deaf and speaks little Italian.
One of Rossini’s most beautiful and revealing citations: “Eating, loving, singing, and digesting are, in truth, the four acts of the comic opera known as life, and they pass like bubbles of a bottle of champagne. Whoever lets them break without having enjoyed them is a complete fool.”