March 10, 2021

De-myth-ifiying Rossini

How much do you really know about the Italian composer Gioachino Rossini?

Did you know that Gioachino Rossini was only 12 years old when he wrote six gorgeous string sonatas while spending a summer in Ravenna, Italy? More commonly known as “Rossini’s Six Sonatas,” they would be an early sign of the Italian composer’s rising stardom. The child prodigy went on to write great works such as The Barber of Seville, William Tell, and La Cerentola, creating overtures and themes so popular that they make appearances in Citizen Kane, The Lone Ranger, and several other films, TV shows, and commercials. The most famous homage may be Looney Tunes’ Rabbit of Seville, starring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.

What else is there to know about the music virtuoso we all adore? In anticipation of our upcoming digital series, "The Sonata Sessions," we’re exploring the facts and debunking the myths of boy genius Gioachino Rossini.

Rossini died as a teenager. While not technically true, Rossini was a “leap year baby.” Therefore, although he was 76 years old when he died, he had only celebrated 19 actual birthdays.

Rossini retired at 37. Kinda: while he would go on to create additional musical works, Rossini’s opera-making career ended following the completion of one of his most famous operas, William Tell, at the age of 37.

He wrote The Barber of Seville in less than three weeks.
True—although Rossini claims he wrote it in 12 days.

Lyric's production of The Barber of Seville from the 2019/20 Season, featuring Marianne Crebassa and Lawrence Brownlee. 

The Barber of Seville was an instant hit!
Myth—when it premiered in Rome, it actually received lukewarm reviews. Many claim this is because it was an adaptation of a play by Giovanni Paisiello that was wildly popular at the time.

He is known for being original.
Myth—many of his themes repeat opera to opera. In fact, he was given the nickname “Monsieur Crescendo” for his overuse of crescendo.

His jovial hits were inspired by his own personality.
Not so much. While many people considered Rossini to be a brilliant comedic composer, Rossini struggled with depression, a condition not commonly talked about during his time.

After his death, his wealth was used to set up a home for retired opera singers.
True. His wife, Olympe, created a conservatory of music and a home for retired opera singers in Paris with the money she inherited after Rossini’s death.

Music Director Designate Enrique Mazzola leads an enhanced string ensemble featuring members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra in the "Sonatas Sessions," premiering online March 2021. 

Now that you know more about one of the greatest Italian composers, be sure to tune in for “The Sonata Sessions,” the digital series led by Music Director Designate Enrique Mazzola featuring members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra in performances of all six of these beautiful, instrumental pieces. Each video in the digital series will feature one of the sonatas, with new videos being released starting in late March 2021. 

Header photo is from Lyric 2015/16 production of La Cerentola (Todd Rosenberg). 

All other photos: Kyle Flubacker, Todd Rosenberg