Shortly after this Rossini married his favorite prima donna, Madame Colbran. He had just completed two of his now forgotten operas, “Bianca e Faliero,” and “Matilda di Shabran,” but did not stay to watch their public reception. He quietly took away the beautiful Colbran, and at Bologne was married by the archbishop. Thence the freshly-wedded couple visited Vienna, and Rossini there produced his “Zelmira,” his wife singing the principal part. One of the most striking of this composer’s works in invention and ingenious development of ideas, Carpani says of it: “It contains enough to furnish not one but four operas. In this work, Rossini, by the new riches which he draws from his prodigious imagination, is no longer the author of ‘Otello,’ ‘Tancredi,’ ‘Zoraide,’ and all his preceding works; he is another composer, new, agreeable, and fertile, as much as at first, but with more command of himself, more pure, more masterly, and, above all, more faithful to the interpretation of the words. The forms of style employed in this opera according to circumstances are so varied, that now we seem to hear Gluck, now Traetta, now Sacchini, now Mozart, now Handel; for the gravity, the learning, the naturalness, the suavity of their conceptions, live and blossom again in ‘Zelmira.’ The transitions are learned, and inspired more by considerations of poetry and sense than by caprice and a mania for innovation. The vocal parts, always natural, never trivial, give expression to the words without ceasing to be melodious. The great point is to preserve both. The instrumentation of Rossini is really incomparable by the vivacity and freedom of the manner, by the variety and justness of the coloring.” Yet it must be conceded that, while this opera made a deep impression on musicians and critics, it did not please the general public. It proved languid and heavy with those who could not relish the science of the music and the skill of the combinations. Such instances as this are the best answer to that school of critics, who have never ceased clamoring that Rossini could write nothing but beautiful tunes to tickle the vulgar and uneducated mind.
“Semiramide,” first performed at the Fenice theatre in Venice on February 3, 1823, was the last of Rossini’s Italian operas, though it had the advantage of careful rehearsals and a noble caste. It was not well received at first, though the verdict of time places it high among the musical masterpieces of the century. In it were combined all of Rossini’s, ideas of operatic reform, and the novelty of some of the innovations probablv accounts for the inability of his earlier public to appreciate its merits. Mme. Rossini made her last public appearance in this great work.
Henceforward the career of the greatest of the Italian composers, the genius who shares with Mozart the honor of having impressed himself more than any other on the style and methods of his successors, was to be associated with French music, though never departing from his characteristic quality as an original and creative mind. He modified French music, and left great disciples on whom his influence was radical, though perhaps we may detect certain reflex influences in his last and greatest opera, “William Tell.” But of this more hereafter.