Back from the Shadows:
Matilde di Shabran and Zelmira
In their differing ways, Matilde di Shabran and Zelmira show a composer taking stock. Both are rich in musical invention; both were rapturously received. However, down the years, tales about implausible plots and impossible-to-cast tenor roles led to obloquy and neglect, from which the two works have only recently emerged. What is new in Matilde di Shabran is the extent to which the comedy is driven by a spirit of parody. Parody had always been part of Gioachino Rossini’s comic method, but his earlier targets had generally been older methods and older composers. Now, as his own Italian career was drawing to a close, he appears to have been moved by an irresistible desire to take a less than serious look at the new operatic order he himself had largely created. Born to comedy, he had learned to revere opera seria.
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