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For some reasons that may have originated in his deeply disturbed and anxious temperament, Rossini dedicated his life to light humoristic operas. Rossini himself was a depressed man, obsessed with the fear of death, living most of the time in his bed with the shades closed.
As a result, he avoided tragic or serious subjects and only toward the end of his life did he compose his famous religious pieces; the Stabbat Matter, the Petite Messe, and of course his giant opera Wilhem Tell ( the other opera séria by Rossini that, to my opinion, doesn’t compete in quality with MII).
Despite its qualities, Maometto II didn’t have a lucky carreer. After the Naples and Venice performances, in 1826, the work
disappeared until the revival by the San Francisco Opera in 1985---and nothing since then.
The reasons of that obscure destiny are beyond comprehension. Probably the piece has just been underestimated in the kind of musical and staging skills required from singers and conductors, as well as stage directors.
Very clearly, Rossini “invented” the romantic italian opera with MII. Donizetti, Bellini, and even the young Verdi are anticipated in that work.
Every element of the grand opera can be found here : powerful orchestra interludes (music…) the famous Rossini crescendo (music….) powerful chorus scenes, one of them being the twin of the famous Trovatore ‘gypsy hammering scene’ (music)
Rossini never gave up his sense of humor, and even in that opera seria.
Who else would have had the guts to interrupt a soprano with a canon shot ? (music)
Or,to shower the king’s aria with chimes, making him look and sound like a christmas tree ?
The description of the Turks is according to the image of that time : lots of chimes and jolly dancing music, in the spirit of Mozart’s Turkish march. The chimes and noisy tunes were supposed to scare the enemy on the battlefield, while it was making the audience laugh in the most peaceful atmosphère of the opera house.
For the opera lover, the most important element is that Rossini invented in this piece the essence of Bel Canto as his successors developed it later. In addition, the most virtuostic arias challenge all 4 main rôles (music : soprano, alto, ténor, bass).
I wish this little présentation can dissipate the misunderstanding that has shadowed MII for almost 2 centuries : Rossini was not only capable of composing a serious opera; he was a master at doing it, and the whole history of opera of the 19th century owes him a lot. You, opera lovers of the 21st century, can anticipate a fullfilling experience of the quintessence of the romantic italian opera as you love it ---the best of it. At the same time, you will discover a work that few people have seen on stage. An opportunity that, with a composer of the calibre of Rossini, is of course a « must attend ».
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