Friday, April 2, 2010

Composer of the Month: Rossini

OK, admit it, you have no idea who Rossini is!  But I bet you are familiar with at least two of his Opera Overtures:  The William Tell Overture and the Barber of Seville.  I know, I know, you are only familiar with these songs because of television ( The theme to The Lone Ranger and Bugs Bunny!).  That's OK.  I first heard these songs when I was a child watching television (who said television is not educational?!).  Today were are going to focus on The William Tell Overture.

Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) was born in Italy.  His father was a horn player for various local theatres and his mother was a singer.  Rossini's first instrument was playing the triangle in his father's band was he was 6 years old.  He later studied the harsichord (a predecesor to the piano), horn, cello and singing.  Rossini is most famous for his operas - he wrote 35 of them!

The story of William Tell is based on  real, historical events. William Tell was an expert marksman with his crossbow.  During the days of the Hapsburg Emperors in Austria (1300's), Albrecht Gessler, the brutal baliff of Altdorf, raised a pole in the village's city square, hung a hat on top of it, and demanded that all the townspeople bow before the hat.  William Tell refused to bow and was arrested.  As punishment, he was forced to shoot an apple off his son's head, otherwise they would both be executed.  Both would be set free if he was successful.  On Nov. 13, 1307, Tell split the apple with a bolt from his crossbow.  When Gessler asked him why he had a second bolt in his quiver, Tell replied that if he had killed his son, he would've used the 2nd bolt on Gessler himself.  This got Tell arrested and put on a ship, where he managed to escape when a storm broke out on sea.  Tell later found Kessler and shot him.  Tell died in 1354 while trying to save a child from drowning.

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