Here are a few things you may or may not know about William Tell 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.
Rossini 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.
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 famous work and remains one of the most popular comic operas ever written.
His first wife was singer Isabella Colbran and Rossini wrote many parts for her in his operas, including the title role in Semiramide.
Although William Tell was one of the grandest operas of its times, it is rarely performed these days. In Season 2017/18 there are only 32 productions of William Tell (including ours) in the world, compared to 889 of La Traviata and 760 of Carmen.
At just 37 Rossini went into semi-retirement following 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.