Gioachino Antonio Rossini

Born - Feb 29, 1792   |   Died - Nov 13, 1868   |   Genres - Music, Theater

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Biography by "Blue" Gene Tyranny

This perennially popular composer of energetic, characterful works inspired at least 20 productions which utilize music from the overture to his opera Guglielmo Tell (William Tell). They quote either from the calm, idyllic pastorale with its Alphorn melody and bird songs after the beginning storm, or the instantly recognized trumpet-charge in the last part, originally intended to express the power of the Swiss people throwing off the yoke of their oppressors. The trumpet call is perhaps best known as the theme to the long-running television series The Lone Ranger which began production in 1949. The pastorale music opens the surreal, one-joke cartoon Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969) just before the deer, calmly munching grass, is suddenly stomped on by Godzilla's enormous foot. Other features using this music include The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones (1999), Yun cai zhi li xing (1996) (aka Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star), Twister (1996), Il Bacio di Tosca (Tosca's Kiss, 1984), and The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976).

In Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971), the trumpeting section, in artificial '60s Moog-synthesizer style, underscores a very fast-motion sex scene between Malcolm McDowell and two sex kittens from the futuristic mall. The music gradually fragments and becomes slower as the scene shifts to his gang waiting for him in the trash-laden lobby. The lilting triplets of the overture to Rossini's opera La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) play prominently in several successive scenes, from a slow-motion fight among gang members segueing into a country-house break-in where McDowell and a lady art collector fight with a giant penis sculpture and a small metal object.

The overture to La Gazza Ladra is also heard in Immortal Beloved (1994) and Voluptuous Vixens (1997). The entire opera received a German television realization, sung in Italian, in 1984.

Discounting the many scenes of characters singing Figaro in the shower (usually sans the actual words permanently unlearned from score, record, or social osmosis), a majority of film and television productions, some 40 out of approximately 125, quote from Rossini's famous opera Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), and, from that, usually the well-known Act I cavatina sung by the barber Figaro, entitled Largo al factotum della cittá. The penultimate bravura of this aria often accompanies scenes of boastfulness (e.g., Help! [1965] and A Fish Called Wanda [1988]), and/or outrageous comedy (e.g., the cartoons Rabbit of Seville [1950] and Long-Haired Hare [1949]). The aria is also heard in Prizzi's Honor (1985), 8 1/2 (1963), and Citizen Kane (1941).

On the composer's more serious side, excerpts from his exquisite and moving Stabat Mater were used in Hardware (1990) (aka M.A.R.K. 13) and Le Bassin de J.W. (John Wayne's Pelvis, 1997).

Rossini's operas L'Italiana in Algeri, Le Comte Ory, La Cenerentola (Cinderella), Tancredi, Semiramide, and Ricciardo e Zoraide have all received numberous complete television and film productions.