When the singers went to condole with Rossini, they found him enjoying a luxurious supper with the gusto of the gourmet that he was. Settled in his knowledge that he had written a masterpiece, he could not be disturbed by unjust clamor. The next night the fickle Romans made ample amends, for the opera was concluded amid the warmest applause, even from the friends of Paisiello.
Rossini’s “Il Barbiere,” within six months, was performed on nearly every stage in Europe, and received universally with great admiration. It was only in Paris, two years afterward, that there was some coldness in its reception. Every one said that after Paisiello’s music on the same subject it was nothing, when it was suggested that Paisiello’s should be revived. So the St. Petersburg “Barbiere” of 1788 was produced, and beside Rossini’s it proved so dull, stupid, and antiquated that the public instantly recognized the beauties of the work which they had persuaded themselves to ignore. Yet for this work, which placed the reputation of the young composer on a lofty pedestal, he received only two thousand francs.
Our composer took his failures with great phlegm and good nature, based, perhaps, on an invincible self-confidence. When his “Sigismonde” had been hissed at Venice, he sent his mother a fiasco (bottle). In the last instance he sent her, on the morning succeeding the first performance, a letter with a picture of a fiaschetto (little bottle).
The same year (1816) was produced at Naples the opera of “Otello,” which was an important point of departure in the reforms introduced by Rossini on the Italian stage. Before speaking further of this composer’s career, it is necessary to admit that every valuable change furthered by him had already been inaugurated by Mozart, a musical genius so great that he seems to have included all that went before, all that succeeded him. It was not merely that Rossini enriched the orchestration to such a degree, but, revolting from the delay of the dramatic movement, caused by the great number of arias written for each character, he gave large prominence to the concerted pieces, and used them where monologue had formerly been the rule. He developed the basso and baritone parts, giving them marked importance in serious opera, and worked out the choruses and finales with the most elaborate finish.
Lord Mount Edgcumbe, a celebrated connoisseur and admirer of the old school, wrote of these innovations, ignoring the fact that Mozart had given the weight of his great authority to them before the daring young Italian composer: