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by Luca

The unique style of Gioacchino Rossini and his operas have a very important role in the art of singing. His vision helped bringing the florid style of baroque opera to a whole new level of virtuosity and make way to the Bel Canto era. Rossini’s vocal ideal was still the castrato. He felt that they were the singers who could best join vocal virtuosity with unsurpassable expressiveness. As those singers were in decline, we have a radical transformation of the vocal tradition, and Rossini was trying to translate to other voices the castrati’s qualities, although he kept a nostalgia for the expressiveness (more than the virtuosity) of that voice.
To Rossini, singing should be about the beauty of the sound and the impeccable execution of agility passages. Just like baroque music, Rossini’s operas had the text serving the music, not the other way around. One of his letters exemplifies this line of thought, when he said that music was not imitative, like paintings or sculptures. More than that, in music “the feelings of the heart are expressed and not imitated” (Letter to Filippo Filippi, 26 August 1868).
Rossini was so worried about the expressive powers of music that he changed the ways cadenzas and other virtuosity lines were done, by taking control of the coloratura parts. By writing out in detail the whole of those passages, he robbed singers of the possibility of improvising or of inserting passages, ornaments and cadenzas. Of course the singers would still change parts at their convenience – they were the stars! But the wider control by the composer over those parts were another big contribution of the “Rossini Reform”. Other aspects reformed by Rossini were the new colors of his instrumentation and comic elements applied to vocalism. His comic operas were treated just like opera seria to showcase vocal virtuosi – another great change in the style of the time.


(Dr. Stacey Jocoy – Texas Tech University)



Rockwell Blake – “S’ella m’è ognor fedele” Ricciardo Aria – “Ricciardo e Zoraide”(1818) I Act VII Scene.
With Peter Jeffes as Ernesto.

From the Arabesque Studio Recording “Rockwell Blake ‎– Encore: Rossini” – ℗ 1989
London Symphony Orchestra conducted by M.° Maximiano Valdes.