Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/182

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170

��KOSSINI.

��much in society, and charms every one by his simple unassuming style.' After the close of the Vienna season, the Rossinis returned to Bologna, where his parents had resided since 1798. There, at the end of September, he received a nattering letter from Prince Metternich, entreating him to come to Verona, and ' assist in the general re- establishment of harmony.' Such invitations, so couched, are not to be refused, and accordingly the chief composer of Italy yielded to the request of the chief diplomatist of Austria, and arrived at the Congress in time for its opening, Oct. 20, 1822. Bossini's contribution to the Congress was a series of cantatas, which he poured forth without stint or difficulty. The best-known of these is 'II vero Omaggio'; others are 'L'Augurio felice,' 'La sacra Alleanza,' and 'II Bardo.' One was performed in the Amphitheatre, which will accommodate 50,000 spectators, and wasconducted by Rossini himself. Work, however, never seems to have prevented his going into society, and we find that during this occasion he acquired the friendship not only of Metternich, but of Chateaubriand and Madame de Lie'ven.

The Congress at an end he began to work at 'Semiramide,' which was brought out at the Fenice, Venice, Feb. 3, 1823, with Madame Rossini, the two Marianis, Galli, and Sinclair the English tenor, for whom there were two airs. The opera was probably written with more care tiian any of those which had preceded it ; and possibly for this very reason was somewhat coldly received. The subject no doubt would seem sombre to the gay Venetians, and they even omitted to applaud the fine quartet (which Verdi must surely have had in his mind when writing the Miserere in the ' Trovatore '), the finale, and the appearance of Ninus, the final trio, at once so short and so dramatic, the cava- tina with chorus, and all the other new, bold, bright passages of that remarkable work. Ros- sini was not unnaturally much disappointed at the result of his labour and genius, and resolved to write no more for the theatres of his native country. The resolution was hardly formed when he received a visit from the manager of the King's Theatre, London (Sigr. Benelli), and a proposal to write an opera for that house, to be called ' La Figlia dell' aria,' for the sum of 240 40 more than he had received for 'Semiramide,' a sum at the time considered enormous. The offer was promptly accepted, and the Rossinis started for England without delay, naturally taking Paris in their road, and reaching it Nov. 9, 1823. Paris, like Vienna, was then divided into two hostile camps on the subject of the great composer. Berton always spoke of him as ' M. Crescendo,' and he was caricatured on the stage as ' M. Vacarmini ' ; but the immortal author of the 'Barbiere' could afford to laugh at such satire, and his respectful behaviour to Cherubini, Lesueur, and Reicha, as the heads of the Conservatoire, his graceful reception of the leaders of the French School, his imperturbable good temper, and good spirits, soon conciliated every one. A serenade, a public banquet, tri-

��ROSSINI.

umphant receptions at the opera house, a special vaudeville (' Rossini a Paris, ou le Grand Diner') everything in short that could soothe the pride of a stranger, was lavished upon him from the first. He in his turn was always kind and amiable, consenting for instance at the request of Panseron an old colleague at Rome to act as accompanyist at a concert with the object of saving Panseron's brother from the conscription. Under the hands of Rossini the piano became as effective as an orchestra ; and it is on record that the first tune that Auber heard him accompany himself in a song he walked up to the instrument and bent down over the keys to see if they were not smoking. Paris how- ever was not at present his ultimate goal, and on Dec. 7, 1823, Rossini and his wife arrived in London. They were visited immediately by the Russian ambassador, M. de Lieven, who gave the composer barely time to recover from the fatigues of the journey before he carried him off to Brighton and presented him to the King. George IV. believed himself to be fond of music, and received the author of 'The Barber of Seville ' in the most flattering manner. The royal favour naturally brought with it that of the aristocracy, and a solid result in the shape of two grand concerts at Almack's, at two guineas admission. The singers on these occasions were Mme. Rossini, Mme. Catalani, Mme. Pasta, and other first-rate artists, but the novelty, the attraction, was to hear Rossini himself sing the solos 1 in a cantata which he had composed for the occasion, under the title of ' Homage to Lord Byron.' He also took part with Catalan! in a duet from Cimarosa's ' Matri- monio' which was so successful as to be encored three times. While the court and the town were thus disputing for the possession of Rossini, 'Zelmira' was brought out at the Opera (Jan. 24, 1824) ; but the manager was unable to finish the season, and became bankrupt before dis- charging his engagements with Rossini. Nor was this all. Not only did he not produce the ' Figlia dell' aria,' but the music of the first act unaccountably vanished, and has never since been found. It was in vain for Rossini to sue the manager ; he failed to obtain either his MS. or a single penny of the advantages guaranteed to him by the contract. True, he enjoyed a con- siderable set-off to the loss just mentioned in the profits of the countless soire'es at which he acted as accompanyist at a fee of 50. At the end of five months he found himself in possession of 7000; and just before his departure was ho- noured by receiving the marked compliments of the king at a concert at the Duke of Welling- ton's, for which His Majesty had expressly come up from Brighton.

In leaving England after so hearty and profitable a reception, Rossini was not ^ taking a leap in the dark; for through the Prince de Polignac, French ambassador in England, he had already concluded an agreement for the-

i This recalls the visit of a great composer In 1746, when Gluck gav a concert at the King's Theatre, at which the great attraction wa his solo on the musical glasses ! [See vol. i. p. 601 a.]

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