WHILE Germany had added to the earlier names of Bach and Handel the more recent ones of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Weber, Italy produced no genius of the first rank. A certain decadence had begun to show itself in Italian music. The works of the Scarlattis, Lotti, or even Cimarosa, no longer appealed to the people of Italy, and public taste in that country began to be satisfied with something far simpler in style. It was this decadence of Italian taste that led Von Bülow to remark, "Italy was the cradle of music, -- and remained the cradle." Instead of keeping abreast of German classical development, Italy shut her ears to the geniuses of the north, and turned her attention to a school of bright but rather trivial melody. This musical isolation lasted until within a few decades.
Gioachino Antonio Rossini, who led the movement toward this popular style of opera, was born at Pesaro in 1792. His father was town trumpeter, and his mother a baker's daughter. He studied singing and horn-playing at home. Entering the 'conservatory at 15, he took up counterpoint under Mattei; but he had no patience with such serious work, and gave it up as soon as he had developed his facility in the lighter vein. He studied the music of Haydn and Mozart until he was nicknamed "the little German"; but he imitated their orchestration and fluency rather than the worth of their style.
Rossini wrote his first stage work for Venice, in 1810. This was followed by an opera buffa at Bologna, and an opera seria at Rome. His career was now a busy one. For the next ten years he brought out no less than thirty operas, in such diverse cities as Rome, Venice, Naples, Milan, and Lisbon. His first work of any value was "Tancredi," given in 1813. During this period he composed also his "Barber of Seville," brought out at Rome, in 1815. This bright comedy, which has done more than any other opera to keep his name