Gioachino Antonio Rossini


b. Pesaro, Italy, February 29, 1792
d. Passy, near Paris, France November 13, 1868

Gioachino Rossini was born of humble stock. His father was an inspector of slaughterhouses who also served as town trumpeter in the village of Pesaro. His mother was a singer who encouraged the musical gifts she spotted in her son. As a boy, Rossini had a beautiful soprano voice. He also learned, by the time he was a teen, to play the piano, viola, and horn. At the Liceo Musicale in Bologna, he consolidated his skills.

His first opera, Demetrio e Polibio (1806), was followed by La cambiale di matrimonio (1810), and Rossini’s career was launched. By the time he was 20, he had a coveted commission from the Teatro alla Scala in Milan: La pietra del paragone (1812). Across a span of 20 years, he wrote 39 operas, five of them in 1812 alone.

Additional Artist information

Rossini’s career took him to various European centers of music: Venice, Rome, Vienna, Bologna, Florence, London, and Paris. It was Paris that he found most congenial and where he spent many of his later years. After a run of extraordinary labor, concluding with the mammoth grand opera Guillaume Tell (1829), he suddenly told the world he was done.

He was only 37 and would live another 39 years when he abandoned opera. He wrote the mighty Stabat Mater (1833, revised 1842), little piano pieces, and a few songs. 

In retirement, Rossini hosted. His home became a gathering place for the artistic elite of Paris and elsewhere. His weekly parties were events to which the famous and about-to-be-famous flocked.

Though his music, save for The Barber of Seville, was neglected for decades. After his death in 1868, Rossini’s place in opera now seems secure. He was an assured craftsman who brought fun and exhilaration to the musical theater. He was an innovator who enhanced the place of the orchestra in opera. He was a terrific melodist and an adventurer often referred to as “Signor Crescendo” or “Signor Accelerando” for shaping those wonderful ensembles in which sound and speed gather into breathtaking explosions that cause listeners to respond with bravos.