THE BARBER OF SEVILLE is witty, clever, and even silly
at times; but Rossini's life was far more complex. These anecdotes reflect
both a comic and serious man with a passion for perfection, food, and even
a family pet!
During the era in which Rossini wrote, singers frequently added elaborate
ornamentation to compositions, often making the original piece difficult
to recognize. To gain more control over the presentation of his music, Rossini
specifically wrote the ornamentation out and instructed singers to adhere
strictly to his wishes. Adelina Patti, a well-known soprano, later performed
an aria from THE BARBER OF SEVILLE for Rossini. She reportedly turned to
him after she finished and said, "And how did you like the aria, maestro?"
Rossini replied, "Charming tune. I wonder who wrote it?"
While music was a great love of Rossini's, he made it evident that it was
not his primary passion. He once commented, "I know of no more admirable
occupation than eating. Appetite is for the stomach what love is for the
heart. The stomach is the conductor, who rules the grand orchestra of our
passion. The bassoon or the piccolo, grumbling its discontent or shrilling
its longing, personify the empty stomach for me. Eating, loving, singing,
and digesting are, in truth, the four acts of the comic opera known as life.
In 1822 Rossini visited German composer Ludwig van Beethoven in his home
-- a dirty and disorderly attic with a badly leaking roof. Beethoven commented,
"Ah, Rossini, the composer of THE BARBER OF SEVILLE. My congratulations;
that is an excellent opera buffa. I have read it with pleasure and I enjoyed
myself. It will be played so long as Italian opera will exist." The
meeting was brief and Rossini, who had to communicate his sentiments in
writing as the great composer was already deaf, expressed his admiration
for Beethoven and departed. On recalling his visit with the poet Carpani,
Rossini remarked, "When I descended those dilapidated stairs I could
not repress my tears."
Aspiring singers and instrumentalists frequently visited Rossini hoping
he would assist them in their pursuit of a career. On one occasion a man
wanted to play his drum for Rossini. As the man had gone to the trouble
of carrying his drum along, Rossini reluctantly agreed to hear him. The
man promptly began playing an overture, and after the first tremendous roll,
he looked up and exclaimed, "Monsieur, here are now sixty bars' rest
-- we will pass them over, and --." Not wanting to hear another note,
Rossini promptly interrupted with "I beg you no such thing. Pray count
Rossini left his house one afternoon and hailed the first cabman he met
asking, "Are your horses tired?" Wanting Rossini's business, the
cabman replied that they were not, but Rossini never hired him. Rossini
refused to trust himself to anything but tired horses; consequently he never
rode in a railway carriage.
Sir Arthur Sullivan visited Rossini one morning. When he entered the house,
Rossini was feverishly working on a small piece of music. Sullivan asked,
"Why, what is that?" Rossini answered him very seriously, "It's
my dog's birthday and I write a little piece for him every year."
to the Cleveland Opera Barber Shop