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Mrs. Obama says she's dealing with low-grade depression. Me too, so welcome to the club! This COVID thing is getting a bit long in the tooth at this point, mid-summer. Live music seems more and more remote. But Rossini – as in Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792-1868) – can help.
Why Rossini? Because Donizetti wrote too many operas, and Bellini, not quite enough to justify an article like this. The frothy Italian stuff is just what the doctor ordered for relief during the doldrums. (We WILL get through this, believe us!)
Yes, Rossini. He who wrote 40 operas – well, 39 plus a fragment – in less than 25 years, starting at the age of 14 and finishing before he reached Jack Benny's official age – leaving him another two score of years to pursue la bonne vie. Not bad, eh?
N.C. readers of a certain maturity will surely recall the National Opera Company's excursions into Rossini-land with English-language versions of The Italian Girl in Algiers and Cinderella, among others. They're among the master's best-known scores, of course – due partly to their overall magnificence and partly because they are such superb vehicles for the singers.
But the four aforementioned operas - Guillaume Tell, Il barbiere di Siviglia, L'italiana in Algeri, and La Cenerentola – barely scratch the proverbial surface. And the first of these, Rossini's grandest opera, is rarely heard live. The same applies to a batch of stage works known today for the most part by their ever-popular overtures – La scala di seta, Il signor Bruschino, La gazza ladra, Semiramide, and Le siège de Corinthe chief among them.
But there are of course operas lurking behind these overtures, operas in Italian and in French, and it's our loss that we know so few of them – and never mind that entirely too many music lovers know far too little about the composer himself.
There are numerous biographies; Richard Osborne's (supplemented here) is widely acclaimed. But for its magnificent writing, Stendahl's 1824 classic Life of Rossini is hard to beat; the author behind the pen name is Marie-Henri Beyle, and the book is available here.
Come in Berlin – or, more specifically, come in, Internet!
Are you ready to wallow in Rossini, for richer or poorer, till – well, till the end of time? Here's a handy list of these delights, given in chronological order, with links to readily available free online videos, in most instances – or to fine-sounding audio recordings for those not filmed on stages around the world. Many of them reflect the very latest Rossini scholarship, too, and are based on recent critical editions. (For much more information, see the website of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro.)
Back in the day, as someone said, in the age of Beta-v.-VHS, AKA The Battle of the Formats, yes, and at a time when the marketplace was riddled with tape pirates, my father decided he wanted to hear all the Rossini operas. He managed to get many of them, albeit in fifth- or sixth-generation copies that were in some cases barely watchable, and many of which sounded as if they were actually recorded underground. We have come a very long way since then, and only one of the works listed below is so washed-out and faded as to resemble those tapes of old (it's Bianca e Falliero).
As Dad often said to his sometimes-bored offspring, "Don't ever say there's nothing to do." Fire up your computer-machine, look up YouTube's search engine, and have at it. And remember you may download all these things – also for free – via AVC, the freeware program described in the second half of the first CVNC "Coping with COVID-19" article in this series.
The format of these listings is: Title with embed to more information including plot summary; a description of the type of work it is; the number of acts; the author(s) of the libretto; details of the premiere; and a link to a recommended YouTube performance – feel free to search for others, of course.
We're indebted to the many conscientious contributors who have made this concision, based on their work, possible.
Enjoy. And never let it be said that there's nothing to do.
La cambiale di matrimonio farsa comica 1 act Gaetano Rossi, after Camillo Federici and Giuseppe Checcherini's libretto (1807) for Carlo Coccia 3 November 1810 Venice, Teatro San Moisè: (1:18:40) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBO7fUW5e5I
L'inganno felice farsa 1 act Giuseppe Maria Foppa, after Giuseppe Palomba's libretto (1798) for Giovanni Paisiello 8 January 1812 Venice, Teatro San Moisè: (1:27:34) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FQNX0HU56k
Ciro in Babilonia, ossia La caduta di Baldassare [first of two Lenten operas by Rossini – because it was frowned on to be frivilous during Lent] dramma con cori 2 acts Francesco Aventi 14 March 1812 Ferrara, Teatro comunale di Ferrara and also here: (2:55:00) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehhgQ1FGLfc&t=6799s
La scala di seta farsa comica 1 act Giuseppe Maria Foppa, after François-Antoine-Eugène de Planard's libretto (1808) for Pierre Gaveaux 9 May 1812 Venice, Teatro San Moisè: (1:44:14) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoprpgIY1Yw
L'occasione fa il ladro, ossia Il cambio della valigia burletta per musica 1 act Luigi Prividali, after Le prétendu sans le savoir (1810) by Eugène Scribe 24 November 1812 Venice, Teatro San Moisè: (1:34:32) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVwpdVml5-0
Il signor Bruschino, ossia Il figlio per azzardo farsa giocosa 1 act Giuseppe Maria Foppa, after Le fils par hasard (1809) by René de Chazet and Maurice Ourry 27 January 1813 Venice, Teatro San Moisè: (1:24:42) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na1HwP4lzRY
Tancredi melodramma eroico 2 acts Gaetano Rossi, after Voltaire; revised by Luigi Lechi 6 February 1813; revised version: 21 March 1813 Venice, Teatro La Fenice and also here; revised version: Ferrara, Teatro comunale di Ferrara: (2:59:05) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TL_kF9cc5bw (Ferrara version). Here's a concert version of the "happy ending," written for Venice: (16:25) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UW3AiSujurA. (For a discussion of the different editions, go here.)
L'italiana in Algeri dramma giocoso 2 acts Angelo Anelli, originally written (1808) for Luigi Mosca 22 May 1813 Venice, Teatro San Benedetto. There's no overture in this video, so start with this 1936 version by Toscanini and the NYP: (7:30) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8Y2kW35i6k. Then...: (2:08:28) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9J2YoIDhcI&t=7s
Aureliano in Palmira dramma serio 2 acts G.F.R. (attributed to Felice Romani, possibly in collaboration with Luigi Romanelli, or Gian Francesco Romanelli), after Gaetano Sertor 26 December 1813 Milan, Teatro alla Scala: (3:20:43) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfPDo3gII9M
Il turco in Italia dramma buffo 2 acts Felice Romani, after Caterino Mazzolà's libretto (1788) for Franz Seydelmann 14 August 1814 Milan, Teatro alla Scala: (2:41:49) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz9Htv7f2qw
Sigismondo drama 2 acts Giuseppe Maria Foppa 26 December 1814 Venice, Teatro La Fenice: (2:43:38) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWqILDmKTik (Plot summary from Rossini Festival, since there isn't one in Wiki: https://www.rossinioperafestival.it/en/stories/sigismondo/.) (Very sorry that the only decent video is of an Eurotrash production.... Will upgrade when possible.)
Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra drama 2 acts Giovanni Schmidt, after Carlo Federici and Sophia Lee 4 October 1815 Naples, Teatro di San Carlo and also here: (3:09:45) AUDIO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5XUyRhVnEQ
Torvaldo e Dorliska dramma semiserio 2 acts Cesare Sterbini, after Jean-Baptiste de Coudry's Vie et amours du chevalier de Faubles (1790) and other libretti based on this work such as Claude-François Fillette-Loraux's libretto (1791) for Luigi Cherubini and Francesco Gonella's libretto for (1796) Simon Mayr and Ferdinando Paer 26 December 1815 Rome, Teatro Valle: (2:19:36) AUDIO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLj6bciUcBo&t=3031s
Il barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L'inutile precauzione (initially titled Almaviva) commedia 2 acts Cesare Sterbini, after Beaumarchais' and Giuseppe Petrosellini's libretto (1782) for Giovanni Paisiello 20 February 1816 Rome, Teatro Argentina: Act I (1:40:37) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fG11ZXVzsKk; & Act II (1:09:37): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyuBRHHNVWg [Total time 2:50:14]
La gazzetta, ossia Il matrimonio per concorso dramma (opera buffa) 2 acts Giuseppe Palomba (revised by Andrea Leone Tottola), after Il matrimonio per concorso (1763) by Carlo Goldoni 26 September 1816 Naples, Teatro de' Fiorentini [description in Italian] and also here: (2:12:13) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m43Rvt-HE_M (Supplemental summary from Rossini Festival, since there isn't a substantial one in Wiki: https://www.rossinioperafestival.it/en/stories/la-gazzetta/. Here, too, is the premiere of the long-lost Act I quintert, from NEC, in April 2013: 8:55 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t63tc5BmI9I. And a review of this Santa Monica production by our colleague Richard Ginell, writing for sfcv, is here.)
Otello, ossia Il Moro di Venezia and also here dramma 3 acts Francesco Maria Berio di Salsa, after Othello, ou le More de Venise (1792) by Jean-François Ducis 4 December 1816 Naples, Teatro del Fondo: (2:36:09) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xg5O2FL0Z4Q
La Cenerentola, ossia La bontà in trionfo dramma giocoso 2 acts Jacopo Ferretti, after Cendrillon (1698) by Charles Perrault and several libretti derived from it such as Charles-Guillaume Etienne's libretto for Nicolas Isouard (1810) and Francesco Fiorini's libretto for Stefano Pavesi's Agatina (1814) 25 January 1817 Rome, Teatro Valle: (2:31;01) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI0sgRnXkhY
La gazza ladra melodrama 2 acts Giovanni Gherardini, after La Pie voleuse (1815) by Jean-Marie-Théodore Baudouin d'Aubigny and Louis-Charles Caigniez 31 May 1817 Milan, Teatro alla Scala: (3:21:18) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtAxn6riYFg (Sorry for the Eurotrash here, too, but believe us when we say this is much better than the one with which we began.)
Armida dramma 3 acts Giovanni Schmidt, after Gerusalemme liberata by Torquato Tasso 11 November 1817 Naples, Teatro di San Carlo: (2:24:34) AUDIO (with Callas) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYUQDknuEn8
Adelaide di Borgogna, ossia Ottone, re d'Italia drama 2 acts Giovanni Schmidt 27 December 1817 Rome, Teatro Argentina: (2:17:02) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iu_5Es5nTJA (Plot summary from ROF: https://www.rossinioperafestival.it/en/stories/adelaide-di-borgogna/.)
Mosè in Egitto [second of two Lenten operas by Rossini] azione tragico-sacra 3 acts Andrea Leone Tottola, after L'Osiride (1760) by Francesco Ringhieri 5 March 1818 Naples, Teatro di San Carlo: (2:25:07) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WbF2lXgaEI
Adina, ossia Il califfo di Bagdad farsa 1 act Gherardo Bevilacqua-Aldobrandini, possibly after Felice Romani's libretto Il Califfo e la schiava for Francesco Basily (1819) 22 June 1826 (composed 1818) Lisbon, Teatro Reale di San Carlo: (1:15:29) AUDIO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iJYxtc9ppM&t=4s (Plot summary from ROF: https://www.rossinioperafestival.it/en/stories/adina/.)
Ricciardo e Zoraide drama 2 acts Francesco Maria Berio di Salsa, after the poem Ricciardetto by Niccolò Forteguerri 3 December 1818 Naples, Teatro di San Carlo: (2:55:50) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfzYpfL4qRk
Eduardo e Cristina (sometimes titled Edoardo e Cristina) drama 2 acts Giovanni Schmidt (originally written  for Stefano Pavesi), revised for Rossini by Gherardo Bevilacqua-Aldobrandini and Andrea Leone Tottola 24 April 1819 Venice, Teatro San Benedetto: (2:14:17) AUDIO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzMA0oeO0S8
La donna del lago melodrama 2 acts Andrea Leone Tottola, after The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott 24 October 1819 Naples, Teatro di San Carlo: Act I (1:37:30) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-A4DXJw1kI; Act II (1:06:30) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2AXVYRHuYI [Total time 2:44:00]
Bianca e Falliero,ossia Il consiglio dei tre melodrama 2 acts Felice Romani, after Blanche et Montcassin by Antoine-Vincent Arnault 26 December 1819 Milan, Teatro alla Scala: (3:03:50) POOR VIDEO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6pQKZZaxOQ
Maometto II drama 2 acts Cesare della Valle, possibly after Felice Romani; revised by Gaetano Rossi 3 December 1820; revised version: 26 December 1822 Naples, Teatro di San Carlo; revised version: Venice, Teatro La Fenice: (2:51:19) AUDIO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFSoVpx6He0
Matilde di Shabran, ossia Bellezza e Cuor di Ferro (also titled Matilde Shabran [initially] and Bellezza e Cuor di Ferro [Naples, 1821, and Milan, also 1821]) opera semiseria 2 acts Jacopo Ferretti, after François-Benoît Hoffman's libretto Euphrosine, ou Le tyran corrigé (1790) for Étienne Méhul and Jacques-Marie Boutet de Monvel (1798), derived from Voltaire 24 February 1821 Rome, Teatro Apollo: (3:30:00) AUDIO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgluuNF7qxs
Ugo, re d'Italia (unfinished) dramma? 3? Acts Gaetano Rossi? not performed (composed 1823-24) intended for London. One aria, "Vieni, o cara," has been reconstructed and recorded under the auspices of Opera Rara. The basis of the Ugo aria is "O fiamma soave," from La donna del lago, available here (9:12): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CORDAVhi3vI
Il viaggio a Reims, ossia L'albergo del Giglio d'Oro dramma giocoso 3 acts; now usually 1 act Luigi Balocchi, after Corinne, ou L'Italie by Madame de Staël 19 June 1825 Paris, Théâtre Italien: (2:55:31) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2O6dCSNKCbo
Le siège de Corinthe (revision of Maometto II) (Known in Italian as L'assedio di Corinto) tragédie lyrique 3 acts Luigi Balocchi and Alexandre Soumet, after the libretto for Maometto II 9 October 1826 Paris Opéra, Salle Le Peletier: (2:45:10) AUDIO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVsVezYeQPg; Italian version (with Sills and Horne) (2:22:45) AUDIO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaqlzKmmEc
Moïse et Pharaon, ou Le passage de la mer rouge (revision of Mosè in Egitto – which makes ths, in effect, the second variant on the composer's second Lenten opera) opera 4 acts Luigi Balocchi and Victor-Joseph Étienne de Jouy, after the libretto for Mosè in Egitto 26 March 1827 Paris Opéra, Salle Le Peletier: Part 1 (1:37:30): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cdyZoIOuFQ; & Part 2 (1:24:25): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uspvhTluCxg [Total time 3:01:55]
Guillaume Tell opera 4 acts (making it, in the French tradition, almost grand, since grand in the French tradition = 5 acts...) Victor-Joseph-Ėtienne de Jouy, Hippolyte-Louis-Florent Bis and Armand Marrast, after Friedrich Schiller 3 August 1829 Paris Opéra, Salle Le Peletier: Part 1 (2:37:46): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsRv0H_suOU&t=12s; & Part 2 (2:49:51 but ends at 1:37:00 with repeat of this portion following): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsSNRI-2vqs&t=28s [Total time 4:14:37]
Hungry for more? Check out the historic broadcast of the reopening of La Scala after WWII – with Arturo Toscanini conducting an all-star cast in music from three Rossini operas and much more on 11 May 1946: (1:49:39) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LamTI8jFXXY.
Note: The principal source material used herein is here, with cross links that lead to still more information.
PS Reader corrections are of course welcome.