Maurice Ravel -The Swiss Watchmaker

Maurice Ravel was born on March 7, 1875, in the small fishing village of Ciboure in the Basque region, near the Franco-Spanish border.  His father, Pierre-Joseph, was a Frenchman of Swiss descent. Pierre-Joseph, a distinguished engineer, met and fell in love with his future wife, a young and beautiful Basque, Marie Delouart, at the time she worked on the Spanish railways.  A few months after Maurice's birth, the family moved from Ciboure to Paris. The parents of Maurice Ravel, Pierre-Joseph Ravel and Marie Delouart. Maurice had a happy childhood. The parents encouraged their two children - Edouard was born in 1878 - to follow their vocation. Maurice's inclination was music. He started music lessons at the age of seven.  Unlike the parents of other composers, Pierre-Joseph viewed positively the prospect of a musical career and sent Maurice to the France's most important musical college, the Conservatoire de Paris in 1889. In the same year, the Paris Exhibition brought toget

Gioachino Rossini - L'italiana in Algeri

Costume designed for the Italian woman in Algiers. 

Gioachino Rossini was only 20 years old when he composed this work, which proved to be his first major success in the "opera buffa" and gave him international recognition. It took less than a month to complete the score and the premiere of the play was given at the San Benedetto Theatre in Venice on May 22, 1813. After this success, young Rossini began a career that would make him the most popular opera composer in Italy. Surprised by the favorable acceptance of his opera, Rossini commented: "I believed that when the Venetians would listen to my opera, they would consider me crazy. But they proved they're crazier than me." Indeed, the French writer Stendhal considered it "an organized and absolute madness".

The opera was written within a few weeks in order to fill an unpredictable gap in the San Benedetto program. Rossini had just emerged with the recent opera "Tancredi", which was a huge success.

In 1808 another opera entitled "L' Italiana in Algeri" was performed in Milan in a libretto by Angelo Anelli and music by Luigi Mosca. To buy time, Rossini adapted Anelli's libretto and composed his own two-act "opera buffa".

With the old Algiers in the background

Rossini's eleventh opera is set in Algiers during the Ottoman occupation. The tyrannical MustafĂ , the Bey of Algiers, decides to marry his wife Elvira to his Italian slave Lindoro and find a new wife for himself. Isabella, a young Italian girl, is shipwrecked on the shores of Algiers in search of her beloved, who is none other than Lindoro. Mustafa falls in love with Isabella, who lures him into an illusory wedding ceremony, during which he escapes with her beloved Lindoro.

The poster of 
"The Italian woman
in Algiers"
 in San Benedetto Theatre
in Venice in 1813.

Amidst a seemingly light, glittering music that serves the comic plot, Rossini encapsulates a range of intertwined techniques, contrasting moods and dramatic moments. Lindoro, for example, mourns with a touching aria, the lost love of Isabella.

In contrast, The First Act develops in a sonic tornado, as the confusion of the faces is expressed by a different percussion instrument "tin tin" (a bell), "tak tak" (a hammer). Rossini exalts these sounds in a solid construction.

An unforgettable melody played by the oboe and accompanied by the pizzikato of strings, is the main feature of the beginning of this introduction. After a brief climax, the melody returns, this time to the oboe and clarinet to finally lead to a more lively section.

A hilarious theme of woodwinds is highlighted by loud chords played by the entire orchestra. A bridge follows with intense harmonic chords of the strings and then the music gradually calms down, while a solo bass introduces the second theme. A shocking climax and a short solo violin complete this section.

Rossini uses the music of The Second Act to develop the characters as they move towards the climax of the illusory ceremony. The finale of the opera reveals the composer's love for the pure rhythm of the voices and instruments, while the characters of the work join the orchestra to conclude that a woman in love can fool anyone.

The original themes come back and the first melody develops more. The second melody is introduced by the flute and the bassoon and then the music ends in a noisy way.