Pesaro | Gioachino Rossini
Gioachino Rossini: the “swan”
Gioachino Rossini, lovingly nicknamed by the Pesaresi their Swan, was born three months after Mozart’s death on 29th February 1792 in Pesaro.
Very brief history of the city of Pesaro
Pesaro was founded by the Romans in 184 BC in an area already occupied during the Iron Age by the Piceni. Wealthy economic centre, thanks to its strategic location on the via Flaminia, during the Roman Empire, in 752 was taken by the Lombards who ruled until Pepin the Short, king of France gave the city to the Church in 774.
A rich Renaissance legacy
During the Renaissance Pesaro was ruled by a succession of lords: the Malatesta (1285-1445), the Sforza (1445-1512) the Della Rovere (1513-1631) which chose Pesaro as the capital of their duchy.
In the early years of their government they started the construction of many important public and private buildings and of a new defensive wall. In 1631 the city returned to the Pope until 1860, when it was annexed to the new Italian State.
A difficult childhood
Rossini was born in the years when the city was ruled back by the Pope after the French invasion. His father Giuseppe, called Vivazza, professional trumpet in local bands, fervent supporter of the French Revolution, spent months in the local fortress after the French troops – which occupied the city between 1796 and 1799 – left.
When Rossini’s father was finally released from prison, the Rossini’s felt necessary to leave Pesaro and move to Lugo, his father’s hometown.
In fact the young Rossini spent the years of his youth on the roads between Ravenna, Ferrara and Bologna, where he started studying music. From 8 years of age to 14 (1806) he enrolled at the Liceo Musicale to study cello, piano and composition. He had a great admiration for Cimarosa and a real passion for Haydn and Mozart, to the point he was nicknamed Il tedeschino, Little German.
An early and rapid career
Rossini wrote his first opera, Demetrio e Polibio in 1806 not even fifteen. His official debut was in Venice in 1810 with the opera La Cambiale di Matrimonio.
In the following two decades Rossini composed 39 operas, 4 or 5 new ones per year, with some controversial premieres, such as the Barber of Seville legendary fiasco in Rome in 1816 and some extraordinary successes: La Gazza Ladra, Zelmira and Semiramide, the last opera premiered in Italy in 1823.
In 1822 Rossini married Isabella Colbran, the legendary opera singer, from whom he separated in 1830.
The early retirement: truth and legend
Rossini’s last opera is the Guillaime Tell, staged in Paris in 1829. For the following 30 years, until his death in 1868 Rossini’s lifestyle changes completely. The triumphant and fast life of the young composer becomes the long, secluded and idle life of the old composer portrait by his biographers and admirers. Among the others, particularly famous, although probably not very trustworthy, is Stendhal’s Life of Rossini.
Many biographers had questioned the reasons for this “early retirement”. Many believe that the cause was a sort of incompatibility between Rossini and the new romantic aesthetic.
In other words, according to some, there was an irreconcilable opposition between the rational approach of the Enlightenment translated into the detachment of the neoclassicism and the exaltation of passions of the Romanticism, which implies the identification with the characters.
Death in France
Rossini died on November the 13th 1868 in Passy, near Paris. He was initially buried in the cemetery of Père Lachaise in Paris and then transferred to the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence in 1887, upon request of the Italian government.
Pesaro: Rossini’s sole heir
Except for a few legacies to his wife and relatives, Rossini named the sole heir of his vast fortune the City of Pesaro to establish a music school, a Liceo Musicale.
When in 1940 the school was taken over by the government the managing organization was changed into a Foundation which is now active in supporting the Conservatory activities and promoting Rossini’s operas throughout the world, in cooperation with the Rossini Opera Festival.
The renewed popularity of Rossini
Many of Rossini’s operas are finally back in the repertoire and regularly staged in the most important opera theatres in the world. The Rossini Opera Festival which takes place in Pesaro every year in August attracts enthusiasts from all over the world.
La Gazza Ladra and Pesaro
La Gazza Ladra is probably the opera among Rossini’s works, that has a special connection with the city of Pesaro, so much so that the overture has become a sort of anthem for the city.
It was staged and conducted by Rossini himself at the Teatro Rossini in 1818, to celebrate the opening of the new Opera theatre. Rossini was then just 26. The young maestro, already famous, was triumphantly welcomed and thanked with a huge applause when he entered the pit to take his seat beside the harpsichord.
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