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Gioachino Rossini, rock star of opera, gets a Google Doodle

February 29, 2012 |  7:13 am

Gioachino Rossini, honoree -- along with leap year -- of a Google Doodle today, had a couple of things in common with Justin Bieber: early musical talent, recognized by his parents, and early adoration.

True, Rossini was apparently no drummer, but by 6 he was playing with his father's musical group ... on the triangle. Yes, things got more impressive from there.

In 1813, at age 20, Rossini already had gained international fame with his operas -- which was more exciting at the time because the art form had a much larger number of fans. Italian opera was "extremely fashionable" in the early 19th century, according to the Victoria and Albert Museum -- which notes the art form did get its share of ribbing, with one critic likening it to "a plate of macaroni" because it could be "absorbed without any real effort" by those in the audience.

Despite that wet blanket, Rossini, along with Donizetti and Bellini, flourished, creating operas that are still popular today. It was "Tancredi" and "L'italiana in Algeri" ("The Italian Girl in Algiers") that put young Rossini over the top.  Some songs from "Tancredi" were so popular, Italians would stand around in law court, singing the melodies in crowds, until the judge would tell them to cut it out.

The musical composer, born Feb. 29, 1792, in Pesaro, Italy, was the son of the "town trumpeter and inspector of slaughterhouses," according to the Notable Names Database. Other sources are kinder, saying Rossini was born to "musical parents" who performed in regional theater.  They sent him for harpsichord lessons, but Gioachino -- a smart kid who already had standards -- told them that his teacher, Prinetti of Navara, played the harpsichord with two fingers and fell asleep during lessons.

Rossini eventually landed at the Conservatory at Bologna, where he studied cello and was known as a huge fan of Mozart.

Some sources indicate that, with his early success, Rossini  stirred up some resentment among other Italian composers.  He is described, in one account, "in the fulness of fame" as being "robust, hearty, vigorous and one of the bon vivants of Bologna la Grassa."  Critics apparently couldn't resist taking a few pokes.  At one time, he even was given the nickname "Signor Crescendo."

Rossini had the last laugh, though.  He wrote more than 30 operas, plus sacred music and chamber works.  He created the classic "The Barber of Seville" -- said by many to be the most popular comic opera of all time -- and "William Tell," for which "The Lone Ranger" will forever be grateful.

ALSO:

Leap year babies: Forever young

George Clooney's next movie: World War II art drama

Minneapolis museum will return looted ancient vase to Italy

-- Amy Hubbard

 

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