Tonight’s composer is Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868). His oeuvre will be presented to us through excerpts from five of his operas.
Gioachino Rossini: L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers)
Overture – Già d'insolito ardore nel petto - Ai capricci della sorte
First, we can enjoy the overture, an aria and a duet from L’Italiana in Algeri. Its premiere was held when the composer was only 21 years old, yet it established itself as one of the most frequently staged comic opera), forming a triad with Il Barbiere di Siviglia and La Cenerentola, also featured tonight. The overture of this two-act opera is popular in its own right. The plot is rooted in the typical world of farces: Bey Mustafà gets bored with his wife and wants to marry her off to one of his slaves. At the same time, he wishes to acquire a new spouse from Italy. However, the slave and the new wife outsmart him and make him perform real and fake errands of power until the two of them escape from Mustafà's court. The bey is forced to reunite with his first wife. After the overture, we can relish one of Mustafà’s arias and then a duet between Isabella and Taddeo (Isabella’s elderly companion, who is also in love with her).
Gioachino Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville)
Overture – Ecco, ridente in cielo – Pace e gioia sia con voi
In the second part, we can enjoy the overture of another opera, Il Barbiere di Siviglia. With a masterfully complex stage plot, this opera was Rossini's most beloved one already in his lifetime. Rumour has it that when Beethoven met Rossini in Vienna, he advised him "Stick to comedy! Above all, make more 'Barbieres.' ". It seems that Beethoven, who was inclined to sullenness, recognised Rossini's ingenuity, yet he understandably resented his "gawkiness". This opera accommodates Figaro's renowned entrance, which we won't be able to hear this time, yet it is well-known even to listeners less well-versed in the opera world. Rossini composed this work in his younger days; it premiered in Rome in 1816, and in 1820, it was staged in German in Pest, then in Hungarian in 1837, in the foundation year of the Pest Hungarian Theatre. According to the plot, Bartolo, a physician, isolates his young ward, Rosina, from the world. Count Almaviva wishes to marry the girl and conjures up a range of various ruses to enter Bartolo's house. His plans keep being thwarted until the very end of the opera, when he does manage to cross the threshold. In fact, the notary immediately authenticates the marriage. Tonight, the overture will be followed by Count Almaviva's aria and then the duet between Bartolo and Count Almaviva.
Gioachino Rossini: Guillaume Tell (William Tell)
Overture – Ne m'abandonne point... Asile héréditaire
Next, we’ll have the chance to listen to the overture and an aria from Guillaume Tell. This opera was completed in 1829, when the 38-year old Rossini had already written nearly 40 operas. Sadly, this one turned out to be his final opera, as he suffered from severe depression in his remaining 39 years. Although these years weren’t entirely fruitless, he did not compose more operas. This work, which was written in French and was first performed in Paris, premiered in Hungary even earlier than Il Barbiere, in 1830. The overture has left behind classical music and the world of opera in a traditional sense; similarly to Figaro's entrance, it is very widely known, as it often serves the soundtrack of films, animated movies, even commercials.
Nonetheless, the entire opera is performed only rarely, as just the music itself lasts for four hours, and it has more than one movement that imposes such requirements on the singers that they can hardly meet. The libretto was written based on Schiller's drama, and the plot is set in Switzerland. Its storyline is by no means a farce but centres around a cheerless theme: a fight for liberty. After the overture, Arnold's aria will fill the hall with beautiful melodies. Arnold's father was killed by the tyrant, yet he is in love with a princess from the oppressive regime.
Gioachino Rossini: Tancredi
O patria... Di tanti palpiti
Only one aria from Tancredi will be presented to our audience tonight. This opera was also composed in 1813 and was first put on stage in Venice. Rossini wrote two different endings to it: a happy one and a tragic one. Basically, the plot focusses on a love story between members of two hostile peoples. The complete opera is seldom staged, but the passionate aria ‘O patria... Di tanti palpiti’ from Act I is its most famous excerpt and is often sung independently.
Gioachino Rossini: La Cenerentola (Cinderella)
Overture – Miei rampolli femminini – Nacqui all'affanno... Non più mesta
The overture and two arias from Rossini’s La Cenerentola close tonight's concert. Albeit the opera was initially a flop at its premiere in 1817, it garnered great acclaim later on. In fact, for a while, it was considered Rossini's most admired opera. In Hungary, it was first performed quite late. The opera's plot goes back to the popular fairy tale, but Rossini insisted that all magical elements should be omitted, making the storyline much more realistic. No fairy godmother, no glass slippers, no transformation at midnight, only a prince and a maid in disguise come on stage. However, the essence of the story remains unchanged: the prince falls in love with the pure-hearted Cinderella, not with her presumptuous step-sisters.