Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
Il Signor Bruschino
Born in Pesaro in 1792, the son of a horn-player and asinger, Rossini even in childhood had experience of the theatre, both as anorchestral player and as a singer himself. His first professional success as acomposer of opera came in 1810 with La cambiale di matrimonio (The MarriageContract), the first of five such light-hearted works for the Teatro San Mois?¿in Venice. Il Signor Bruschino is the last of these one-act operas, in styleprefiguring what was to come.
In the course of only a few years Rossini built up areputation in Italy, with a series of operas, both comic and tragic. In 1822 hewas in Vienna for a season of his operas there and the following year hisSemiramide was staged at La Fenice in Venice. This marked the end of Rossini'scareer in Italy as an opera-composer. In recent years there had been attractiveoffers from abroad, a mark of his widespread popularity. Now married to thesoprano Isabella Colbran, whose career was drawing to a close, he moved toParis, the city for which his later operas were written, at first Il viaggio aReims at the The?ótre Italien, followed by revisions of two earlier works forthe Paris Opera, and finally Le Comte Ory and, in 1829, the demanding four-actGuillaume Tell. There were negotiations for a new opera based on Goethe'sFaust, but the fall of the restored Bourbon monarchy and the rise to power of anew government under the so-called citizen king Louis-Philippe, with morestringent financial policies, ended Rossini's contract for further operas and, forthe moment, the life annuity that had been granted him. This was only restoredsix years later, after much aggravation. By now Rossini was, in any case,exhausted. He had written 39 operas in less than twenty years and won anastonishing degree of popular adulation. He now divided his time between Parisand Bologna, finding some relief from the company of his wife, who remained inBologna, with Olympe Pelissier. In 1837 he eventually separated from Colbran,but it was only after his wife's death in 1845 that Rossini was able to marryhis mistress.
The later years of Rossini's life found him concerned withmusic in Bologna, notably as consultant to the Liceo Musicale. Growingpolitical disturbance there led him to move first to Florence, and then, in1855, to France. He built a villa for himself at Passy, and during his finalyears occupied himself with writing the varied pieces that form his so-calledPeches de vieillesse (Sins of Old Age). His historical reputation was secure,in spite of changes in operatic fashion, and he continued to enjoy fame as awit and as a gourmet. Performances of his operas at one time concentrated onopera buffa, the style that Beethoven had recommended him to follow duringRossini's visit to Vienna in 1822, and Il barbiere di Siviglia has always heldits place in operatic repertoire. More recent years have also broughtperformances of Rossini's more serious works, as the demanding technical skillsrequired of performers have been cultivated once more.
The farsa giocosa in one act, Il Signor Bruschino, has alibretto based on the French play Le fils par hasard, ou Ruse et folie byAlissan de Chazet and E.-T.Maurice Ourry by the Italian librettist GiuseppeMaria Foppa, a versatile and prolific writer in Venice who provided composerswith some hundred libretti. For Rossini he wrote the libretti of three of thefarse giocose then popular in Venice, and the libretto for the drammaSigismondo for La Fenice.
 The opera opens with an overture that is well enoughknown in the concert hall, punctuated, as it is, by the tapping of violinists'bows on their music stands.  The scene reveals the ground-floor room of acountry house, giving onto a garden. Florville is in love with Sofia. He isjoined in the garden by the latter's maid, Marianna, who tells him that he willsoon learn his fate. She re-enters the house, to emerge again with Sofia, andthe couple sing of their joy at being together.  Sofia's guardian, GaudenzioStrappapuppole, has long been an enemy of Florville's father. The latter is nowdead, but Sofia tells her lover not to raise his hopes, as she is now promisedto the son of a certain Signor Bruschino, whom she has never seen, any morethan Gaudenzio has. Florville at once conceives a plan. As he himself isunknown personally to Gaudenzio, he begins, but breaks off when Marianna, whohas been on watch, tells them someone is coming. The women return to the house,and Florville stands aside. The newcomer is the inn-keeper Filiberto, talkingto himself of the money that Signor Bruschino owes him. Seeing Florville, heasks if he is from the house, and Florville tells him that he is SignorGaudenzio's agent. Filiberto goes on to explain that a young fellow calledBruschino, who has a father suffering from gout, has been at his inn for threedays and run up a debt of four hundred francs. He is now detained there untilthe debt is paid. The young man has given him a letter for Signor Gaudenzio togive to his father. Florville announces himself the young man's cousin andseems anxious to keep news of the young Bruschino's imprudence from Gaudenzio.
 Florville pays part of the young Bruschino's debt, oncondition that the latter remains detained by Filiberto, who gives Florvillethe letter he has brought.
 Florville's plan is to present himself as the youngBruschino.
 Gaudenzio, alone, considers his situation with a degreeof self-satisfaction.
 He has found a good match for Sofia, but would like tobe even with Florville. Marianna enters with a letter that Florville has givenher, which Gaudenzio reads. It is apparently from old Bruschino, who warnsGaudenzio that his son has been acting the wastrel but should be detained byGaudenzio. He adds information on two distinguishing marks by which the youngman can be recognised, since Gaudenzio has never met him. Gaudenzio gives thenote supposedly describing young Bruschino to his servants and tells them tofind him. He tells Marianna not to mention what she has heard to Sofia. At thispoint Gaudenzio's servants bring Florville in, identified from the falsedescription. He admits that he is Bruschino, and in apparent penitence givesGaudenzio the letter from young Bruschino to his father, the one, as heexplains in an aside to Marianna, that he had had from Filiberto. In seeminggratitude for Gaudenzio's acceptance of him, he kisses the latter's hand, andGaudenzio assures him that his father will forgive him. He goes into the housewith Marianna and the servants.
At this point the voice of old Bruschino is heard. He burstsin, his temper not improved by the gout from which he is suffering. Gaudenziotells him that his son is safe and in the house, and calls to one of theservants to fetch him. Bruschino must forgive the boy, after all they were bothyoung once.  Florville comes in, and, at first unnoticed, observes thescene, until Gaudenzio leads him forward, encouraging him to seek his supposedfather's forgiveness. Florville addresses Bruschino as his father, but thelatter abruptly asks who he is. His rejection of Florville as his son convincesGaudenzio that the old man is simply behaving unnaturally and vindictively inrejecting his son. Florville kneels, while Bruschino remains adamant, plaguedequally by the situation and by gout; the matter had better be sorted out bythe police, a conclusion in which all three agree.
 Sofia is alone, soon to be joined by Bruschino, ready todeal with Gaudenzio, who seems to have tricked him. Coming forward, shereproaches Bruschino for his cruelty to h