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.
Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua attended the successful performance of Peri’s Euridice in Florence, which was probabily witnessed also by Monteverdi himself. The Duke realized immediately the originality of this new entertainment and the prestige that would reflect on the lord that sponsored it.
Domenico Cimarosa’s most successful opera, The Secret Marriage, was composed on a libretto written by Giovanni Bertati, a Venetian employed as court poet in Vienna, on a subject very popular at the time. The story was in fact at the centre of a series of 6 paintings by William Hogarth, the Marriage in Fashion, le Mariage à la Mode, published in London between 1743 and 1745, depicting the bad consequences of a wedding between a penniless aristocrat and a rich bourgeois. Bertati the librettist turns the social satire into a mockery of bourgeois, eager to ennoble but happy to save half of the dowry when the opportunity arises.
Elisir d’amore is Donizetti’s first opera to show his full mastery of the comic style. Arias like “Adina believe me” and the most famous “A furtive tear” are pieces in which Donizetti not simply suggests emotions but gives body to their very essence thanks to a music of universal, immortal power. The story is set at the end of eighteenth century, in a country village.