Rossini in Paris
The series about historical places of opera art & culture. Get to know exciting excursion and travel ideas for opera lovers. This time: Rossini in Paris.
All Destinations on google maps with links to detailed Blogposts:
Rossini in Paris
The 32-year-old Rossini took up the post of director of the Théâtre lyrique in Paris in 1824. His last position was at the Naples Opera, and he had recently married the former star mezzo-soprano Isabel Colbran. He wrote 3 operas for Paris over the next 5 years, including “Guillaume Tell” in 1829, which remained his last opera. Why, remains to this day in the dark. Was it his failing health that caused him to suffer from depression (he suffered from progressive gonorrhea), was it creative exhaustion after years of excessive productivity, or did he believe that his music no longer fit the times?
After his “Tell” Rossini was in negotiation with the Grand Opéra. A contract for 10 years was in the question, during which Rossini was to deliver 4 works and receive a considerable lifelong pension in return. However, due to a financial crisis of the state budget, triggered by the July Revolution, these plans evaporated after a lengthy legal dispute.
Rossini subsequently commuted between Paris and Bologna, and in 1832 met Olympe Pélissier in Paris, a veteran salon courtesan seven years his junior. She had to stand on her own two feet early on and chose the path as a lover of wealthy men. They began a relationship in 1832.
However, the following Paris years were marred by Rossini’s health problems, which caused him chronic pain. More about this in the section on his spa stays.
He separated from his first wife and, after her passing in 1845, married Olympe, who, together with Rossini, ran the famous Samedi-Soires in Paris during the last 10 years of Rossini’s life (see below). Rossini had the status of an influential “elder statesman” and his “old age sins” of gourmandism and his sharp tongue became famous through all sorts of anecdotes (see the digression below with Adelina Patti).
Rossini finally died in 1868 at his home in Plassy as a result of an operation for rectal cancer. He was given a grave of honor in the Père Lachaise cemetery.
Destination Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin
This was the place where the famous “Samedi Soires” took place, Rossini’s musical salon, where all the musical celebrities met to make music, listen and discuss. The events, organized by Rossini’s second wife Olympia, saw regular guests such as Saint-Saens, Auber, Meyerbeer, Gounod, Bizet, Liszt, and others. Rossini also composed small occasional works (his so-called “Péchés de vieillesse”, sins of old age) for these occasions, with which he also occasionally teased his guests.
In March 1860, a remarkable incident took place at this address. The 47-year-old Richard Wagner visited the 68-year-old Rossini. Michotte, Rossini’s adlatus, carefully noted the content of the conversation. He reported that most of the conversation revolved around the reform of European opera. From this a small anecdote: “Richard Wagner (who was not a Rossini devotee) praised Rossini’s apple-shot scene from ‘Guillaume Tell’ to the skies, and he advocated declamation as the music of the future, while Rossini advocated melody. Wagner cleverly cited Rossini’s ‘Sois immobile’ from his ‘Tell’ as an example. To this Rossini said with a smile: ‘So this is how I wrote music for the future without knowing it?'”
At the bottom you will find a musical excursion to “Sois Immobile” with a link to listen to it.
The building still stands and a commemorative plaque can be spied between two balconies on the second floor.
Building 2, Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin:
Destination Maison Dorée
This restaurant was a famous and expensive restaurant on the Boulevard des Italiens. Rossini was a frequent guest and the chef Casimir Moisson created here the dish “Tournedos Rossini” for the gourmet Rossini at his suggestion. Escoffier later immortalized it in his famous “guide culinaire”.
The restaurant has not existed since 1906, the building still stands but now houses the French Post Office.
The historic Maison Dorée:
Destination Palais Garnier
Rossini’s most important opera for Paris, his “Guillaume Tell” was performed in the Salle Pelletier of the Grand Opéra. This gigantic Parisian institution was the most professional opera house in the world at the time. Unfortunately, this opera house can no longer be visited, because it too met the fate of a devastating fire in 1873, which raged for 27 hours and completely destroyed it.
On the orders of Napoléon III, the Palais Garnier was inaugurated as a replacement two years later.
The fire of the Grand Opéra (contemporary drawing):
Destination Plassy, Rossini’s deathplace
Rossini lived in a villa on the edge of Passy Park in the 16th arrondissement during the summer months from 1857 onwards. He died there in 1868. The house is now no longer standing, the exact location was 2, Avenue Ingrès.
Historical photo of the Maison Rossini :
Rossini in Passy, 1862
Destination Cemetery Père Lachaise
Rossini’s body was buried alongside Chopin and Bellini at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris after a solemn funeral. In May 1887, his remains were transferred to Florence.
His honorary grave is located in Division 4.
Musical background: “Sois immobile” from Guillaume Tel
Gessler comes up with the terrible idea that Tell should shoot the apple from his son’s head as punishment. When Tell refuses, Gessler orders his son to be killed. Then Tell throws himself at Gessler’s feet, Gessler scornfully demands the apple shot. Tell is moved and blesses his son. He is handed the crossbow and the quiver and secretly sticks a second arrow into his jacket. Once again Tell goes to his son and asks him to stand still and pray to God.
Touchingly accompanied by a solo cello, Tell sings the moving words. The baryton’s voice goes up to the F (“Gemmy! Gemmy!”) to express the pain of the father.
Sois Immobile (Resta immobile):
Anecdote with Adelina Patti
Paris’ social life takes place in the salons. When she sings the aria «Una voce poco fa» from Rossini’s «Barbiere di Siviglia» with Strakosch’s piano accompaniment, the maestro Rossini sits among the audience. Astonished, he notes that the young lady takes a lot of liberties and generously decorates the aria to her taste. After enthusiastic applause from the audience, Rossini maliciously asks the young woman what she has sung. The surprised Patti says: «But Monsieur, it is your piece». To which Rossini returns one of his famous Bon mots: «Moi? Impossible, c’est plutôt une Stracochonnerie» (From me? Impossible, that was a Strako-mess).
Patti learns her lessons from this incident and a few days later goes to Rossini to get fatherly advice from him. The next time she sings Rosina, he sits in the theatre. His comment is a simple «adorable». A few years later Rossini dies and Patti sings his mass «Stabat Mater» at the funeral. Charles Gounod, the creator of «Faust», then sits as a listener in the church. He later describes this Patti-moment as his heavenly moment of his life.Adelina Patti: