Rossini Rossini once received a curious letter before a performance of one of his operas at La Scala in Milan:
"A lady who wishes to make the acquaintance of the great Maestro will be at La Scala tonight in Box No. 9 to tell you something she cannot put into writing." Meanwhile, the company's leading tenor announced that the beautiful wife of the French ambassador had arrived in town to see the opera and would occupy Box No. 9. As the overture began Rossini, greatly excited and dressed to the nines, arrived in Box No. 9 - and was dismayed to find it empty. as the lights came on after the first act, Rossini noticed an envelope on the empty chair beside him. Eagerly he opened it and read:
"My dear Maestro. The ambassadress of France regrets that she cannot come to the theater tonight for one important reason: she is dead - and well decayed. The French ambassador has been a widower for three years. Please accept, Maestro, the compliments of your admirer, 'Primo Aprile.'" "The first of April!" he angrily exclaimed. "Why don't I ever look at the calendar?"
Rossini was famed for his short temper. While conducting a rehearsal one day, he was dismayed to hear a squealing noise emanating from a player's horn. "What's that?" he fumed. "It's - I, I, ah..." the man stammered, and was quickly interrupted: "Ah, is it? Then pack up your horn and go home," Rossini snapped, before adding, "I'll join you later." The player in question? Rossini's own father.
On the other hand, though his first clarinetist made numerous mistakes while rehearsing one of his early operas in Rome, Rossini never reproached him. The man's identity? He was the barber who habitually shaved Rossini after each rehearsal!
Rossini once congratulated the diva Adelina Patti for her incredible voice. "Madame, I have cried only twice in my life," he declared. "Once when I dropped a wing of truffled chicken into Lake Como, and once when I first heard you sing." "The truffle," Rossini once remarked, "is the Mozart among the mushrooms."
Rossini was visited one day by a man seeking his opinion of a pair of oratorios which he had composed. Though the maestro attempted to decline on the grounds of poor health, the composer was insistent: He would return in a week for Rossini's assessment.
When the man did so, Rossini graciously welcomed him from his armchair but remarked that his illness had prevented him from examining the second score. "What did you think of the first one?" the man asked. "There are good things in it," Rossini replied, "but I prefer the other one."
So few mistakes?
Rossini was in the habit of marking errors in his students' compositions with small crosses. A mediocre young student once expressed his delight at finding so few such marks on his corrected manuscript: "I'm so pleased that there are so few mistakes," he rejoiced.
"If I had marked all the blunders in the music with crosses," Rossini retorted, "your score would have looked like a cemetery!"
Arriving to visit Rossini one morning, Arthur Sullivan found the composer playing a festive piece of music as he entered the room. "Why, what is that?" he asked, and was greatly amused by Rossini's reply: "It's my dog's birthday," he explained, "and I write a little piece for him every year."
Rossini was notoriously lazy. One morning while he was composing a duet in bed, a page of the manuscript dropped off and floated down and away - and landed out of reach. Rather than get up to reteive it, Rossini simply sighed and tried to reproduce it on another sheet. Some time later, a friend dropped in and Rossini, still in bed, asked him to retrieve the page. Rossini then compared the two, and found that, while he liked the second version better, he admired elements of the original too. His solution? He promptly added an extra part - and turned the piece into a trio.