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Elisabetta, Barbiere, Otello, Mosè, Zelmira, Tell. Pederzini, Pasero, G. Gatti, Stabile, De Muro Lomanto, P. Pauli, De Taranto; Gui. (1943). 95m. Italian, with non-optional English subtitles. B&W.

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John Ardoin, reviewing in The Dallas Morning News

“Filmed in Italy during 1943, this is one of the few conscionable and entertaining composer biopics. Starring Nino Besozzi as Rossini, the film is on the whole accurate (something in itself unusual where films of composers are concerned), and few will forget the moving moment in which Rossini and Beethoven come face-to-face in Vienna in 1822. There are important operatic sequences from The Barber of Seville, Moses and Otello featuring such well-known prewar Italian singers as Gianna Pederzini, Mariano Stabile, Tancredi Pasero and Piero Pauli.”

Alan Blyth, reviewing in Gramophone

Rossini has something of the flavour of Marcel Carné’s masterpiece, Les Enfants du Paradis, in that it portrays its era and particularly its country in human, highly coloured tints. Like its French counterpart, it uses a host of character actors to portray, winningly, Rossini’s colleagues and contemporaries, and has crowd scenes that are vivid and finely directed. Both Nino Besozzi as Rossini (a good likeness) and Paola Barbara as Colbran give performances that ring true.

“However, it’s disappointing to find that famous singers listed on the case make only brief appearances. Even so it’s a pleasure to see Stabile as Figaro, Pasero as Basilio and Pederzini as Rosina. Gatti is heard, all too briefly, as Desdemona. The film shows Rossini triumphing in Naples, Rome, Vienna (where he meets a romanticized Beethoven) and Paris, from Elisabetta to Tell. I thoroughly enjoyed this offering and wished it had gone on longer.”

Michael Tanner, reviewing in Classic CD

“I had never before heard of Rossini, made in Italy in 1943, and really impressive dramatically. The scene in which Rossini goes to see Beethoven in Vienna is indebted to German expressionist films, and both eerie and moving. I can’t imagine anyone doing something so imaginative today. A roster of important singers take part in the operatic sequences–tremendous.” Rated 4 stars out of a possible 5

THE ONLY FOOTAGE of some of these artists. An engrossing, accurate dramatization of the composer’s life from Elisabetta to Tell. Includes the booing of Barbiere. Pasero’s “Calunnia” is the film’s highlight.
Stefan Zucker

This is an Italian wartime film of the most solid production values, with a cast of actors second to none in the pre-Open City Italian cinema. Rossini’s career is covered from 1815 through 1829, with Nino Besozzi at age 42 presenting a rather mature portrait of the composer at age 23 and growing into his early middle age quite believably. An actor of considerable charm and humor, Besozzi is well-partnered by Paola Barbara as Isabella Colbran. Barbara at age 31 looks like an opera singer, and she was surely one of the classiest Italian actresses of her day. The remainder of this excellent company is composed of some truly lovable character actors, some of whom, like Paolo Stoppa, were still gracing Italian films in the 1980s. The entire production is well photographed and directed, with the meeting of Rossini and Beethoven, in 1822, in Vienna, being the most memorable scene in the film, so much so that I doubt I will ever forget it–it easily could have been the work of James Whale or Karl Freund.

The singers provide a fascinating glimpse into the non-Gigli-Gobbi-Bechi Italian musical scene of the early 1940s. Many of the artists make their only film appearances ever, and Pasero steals the limelight with a panache that belies his sometimes not overly involved recorded performances. All in all, a surprisingly effective film that I highly recommend.
Joe Pearce

For a complete list of our operas by Rossini, see the Index to composers.

Tancredi Pasero (1892-1983) appeared as a leading bass at La Scala, from 1918, as well as at Covent Garden, the Paris Opéra and the Met. In 1935 he sang in the world premiere of Mascagni’s Nerone, at La Scala.

Gabriella Gatti (1908- ) sang at the Rome Opera, from 1937, and at La Scala, her repertory ranging from Mefistofele, to Tannhäuser, to Iphigénie en Tauride, to Oberon,to Semiramide. She is in the film Giuseppe Verdi: Divine armonie (Video #519, deleted) and is heard on a film of Guglielmo Tell highlights (Video #657).

Mariano Stabile (1888-1968) became a La Scala star in the 20s, also appearing at the Chicago Opera, the Teatro Colón and the Salzburg Festival; he was best known for Don Giovanni and Falstaff.

Gianna Pederzini (Article)

Enzo De Muro Lomanto (1902-1952) also studied with De Lucia. At La Scala, on and off, from 1928-43, he sang Don Ottavio, Ernesto, Fenton and Tonio, creating Giordano’s Il re there. He appeared in most Western European countries and in Japan, China and Australia. For a short time he was married to soprano Toti Dal Monte.

Piero Pauli (1898-1967) studied with Francisco Viñas and Maria Barrientos and sang at La Scala from 1932-35.

Vittorio Gui (1885-1975) conducted at San Carlo, La Scala and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino as well as Covent Garden and Glyndebourne