THERE are lots of theories. Maybe Gioachino Rossini was tired. He might have been devastated by the death of his beloved mother. Or perhaps it was his health, or shifts in art or politics. His detractors insinuated that he had simply grown rich and lazy.
All we know for sure is that he stopped. His 39th and final opera,“Guillaume Tell,” known today almost solely for its overture, will receive rare performances on Saturday and on July 15 at the Caramoor International Music Festival in Katonah, N.Y., in a semi-staged version to be conducted by Will Crutchfield. At the work’s premiere, in 1829, Rossini was 37 and the most celebrated composer in the world, the creator of exuberant comedies like “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” and “La Cenerentola” and sober tragedies like “La Donna del Lago” and “Otello.”
“During the last 12 years,” Stendhal had written in 1824 , “there is no man who has been more frequently the subject of conversation, from Moscow to Naples, from London to Vienna, from Paris to Calcutta, than the subject of these memoirs. His glory already knows no other bounds than those of civilization itself, and yet he is barely 32.”
Then something happened. Rossini lived for nearly 40 years after “Guillaume Tell” but never wrote another opera. His “great renunciation,” as one biographer called it, is a phenomenon without equivalent in music history. Other composers — Elgar, Rachmaninoff, Sibelius, Ives — have retired long before their deaths. But none have been as famous, or as young, as Rossini.
He was born in 1792 in Pesaro, Italy. His father made a little money playing the trumpet and horn, and his mother was an aspiring singer. Rossini showed early talent as a composer, and in 1810, at 18, he had his first hit with the one-act farce “La Cambiale di Matrimonio.” As would be the case with many of his operas, the libretto was stale, but Rossini’s music sparkled.
Why do you think he left the music world?
Meanwhile in other opera thoughts - in London - mezzo Joyce DiDonato is preparing a beautiful Cinderella by Jules Massenet - read her entry here.