Essay on Rossini and Il Barbiere di Siviglia

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Rossini and Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Gioachino Rossini, like many great composers, was born in the right place at the right time. The musical firmament was still mourning the loss of Wolfgang Mozart in 1792 when Rossini was born. His parents were both gifted musicians, and young Gioachino was in a music conservatory by the age of 14. Rossini composed ten operas within the following seven years and had established himself as a gifted composer in the opera buffa style. This genre of comic opera was strikingly different from the rigorous opera seria, but it still managed to acquire some noticeable traits. Primarily, the arias in opera buffe shirk the da capo style of the seria mold. The subject matter deals frequently
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Rossini snuck out of the Teatro Argentina and went home, retiring for the evening without so much as a word to anyone. The following evening, however, was a stark contrast. The composer did not attend the performance, but he heard a crowd with torches in the street following the show. He fully expected an angry mob, but was greeted by an adulatory audience shouting “Bravo!” Almaviva became immensely popular, and the title was eventually changed to Il Barbiere di Siviglia. This alteration established Rossini’s work as the ultimate expression of the story, and the work is now considered widely as one of the greatest comic operas ever written.

An aria from Barbiere that incorporates many of the typical buffa elements is 'La calunnia é un venticello' from the first act. Often called the 'Calumny aria', La calunnia is the first aria sung by the unscrupulous music teacher, Don Basilio. He sings to Bartolo about defaming Almaviva through calumny, malicious lies. The aria opens slowly, softly in D major as Basilio describes his slander as a gentle breeze which begins to gather force. Rossini's orchestration embodies this concept, as a simple ascending scale in thirds begins in the strings. The pianissimo marking gives way to piano as the pattern moves to a phrase in b minor. The tune continues to meander through tonalities until it arrives back in D major. Basilio reiterates that his lies “gather
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