Here are a few things you may or may not know about composer Gioachino Rossini (1792 – 1868).
He was a celebrity of the opera world. While other brilliant composers like Mozart and Beethoven struggled to make a living out of their art, Rossini was wildly successful.
The apple does not fall far from the tree; his mother was an opera singer and his father was a French horn player.
Even thought he lived to the age of 76, Rossini celebrated his 19th birthday in the months before his death. He was born in a leap year on 29 February 1792.
His operas are amongst the most performed in the world. Only Verdi, Mozart and Puccini have more of their operas performed each year.
He could have been a Melburnian; Rossini loved fine food. His name can still be found on menus in gourmet restaurants around the world. Tournedos Rossini is an eye fillet topped with a slice of foie gras, garnished with truffle and finished with a Madeira or port wine sauce.
At age 23, Rossini composed his famous comic opera The Barber of Seville in less than three weeks. (He claims 12 days).
He was an opera-writing machine. Between 1812 and 1822, Rossini wrote 30 operas, the majority of his lifetime output.
Despite being hissed at its premiere, The Barber of Sevilleis Rossini’s most popular work. It is in the top five most performed operas in the current season with 534 performances worldwide.
His first wife was singer Isabella Colbran and Rossini wrote many parts for her in his operas, including the title role in Semiramide.
At just 37 Rossini went into semi-retirement following his grand opera William Tell. He stopped composing operas but still wrote shorter musical works such as songs and piano pieces.
Even after retirement he continued to mentor emerging young composers, including Verdi who greatly admired Rossini’s work.
His last major composition, a setting of the Stabat Mater prayer, is considered a masterpiece but it wasn’t sacred music that made his name eternal.
Rossini’s tomb is empty. In 1868, he was buried in a grand stone tomb in Paris' famous Père Lachaise Cemetery but in 1887 his wife moved his remains to the Basilica Santa Croce in Florence.
Victorian Opera performs Rossini's The Barber of Seville on 12 and 14 December at Melbourne Recital Centre and 21 November at Princess Theatre, Launceston.