Gioacchino Rossini, born on February 29 two centuries ago to impoverished parents, secured fame and fortune early in life. By age 40, the composer had redefined the Italian opera and created some of its wittiest and most adroitly orchestrated comic masterpieces. He had also burned himself out; living in Paris for most of the rest of his life, he became a fixture in the city's loftiest artistic salons--a dandy gourmand and raconteur. Rossini resembled Mozart in both his lust for the good life and his musical sensibility, and what he appreciated most was the voice. He treated singers as exquisite and versatile instruments and spun for them hundreds of melodies--in songs, cantatas, and operas. In this tribute to Rossini, the fetching 24-year-old Italian mezzosoprano Cecilia Bartoli serves up arias from Semiramide and Elizabeth, Queen of England, a bouquet of Italian, French, and Spanish songs, and a selection from Soirees musicales. Sure to be equally heartfelt is the preconcert lecture by U. of C. music professor Philip Gossett, whose love for Rossini can be infectious. Tonight, 8 PM (lecture begins at 7) Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 702-8068.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Vivianne Purdom.