What an eclectic day we had yesterday! (Friday)
First, Elizabeth took me to a wonderful Mexican market on the west side of Phoenix. The “Los Altos Rancho Mercado” was everything its title promised. And more. It was like being in Mexico. Quite an international experience.
Of course, we sampled some things and also ordered a custom-made cake for a double birthday party we will be having this coming week as my eldest daughter, her husband and my four grandchildren will be coming to visit us from Vienna, Austria.
Second, we then drove all the way up to Cave Creek to look for something quite innocuous – a particular lamp shade Elizabeth wanted. Instead, we landed smack in the middle of a huge motorcycle crowd. It was the annual Bike Week in Cave Creek.
There were thousands of bikes and probably several thousand bikers who clogged up the main drag of this western town that still looks like it is just leaving the 19th century.
Third, in the evening, we attended the Arizona Opera performance of Rossini’s “Cinderella” at the Phoenix Symphony Hall. And what a zoo it was! The traffic, congestion and the crowds were WORSE than last weekend during the Final Four tournament in Phoenix.
As it turns out, the city morons once again overbooked overlapping events. Last night, the AZ Diamondbacks were swinging in Major League Baseball. The Phoenix Suns were saying goodbye to their NBA season. And there was also some kind of a dance event at the Herberger Theater. All at basically the same time and withing a few hundred yards of year other. Insanity!
It took us forever to get there and park. We just made it as the opera was opening. And it took us also forever to leave even though it was nearly 11 PM.
As for the opera, Rossini’s “Cinderella” opened exactly 200 years ago (in 1817).
Stand by for more for an interesting story on the history of this opera, and Rossini’s relationship with Beethoven.
Great Art vs. Popular Music
ROSSINI AND BEETHOVEN: HOW GREAT GERMAN MUSIC MASTER KILLED ROSSINI’S ZEAL TO COMPOSE
“Since hearing Beethoven’s Third Symphony, Eroica, Rossini had been moved to meet Beethoven and had tried several times through a few people to meet the composer. It seems most likely that Antonio Salieri was the culprit (so to speak 😉 of setting up the meeting, since he had played violin at the 1813 premiere of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, and was a friend and former teacher of Beethoven.”
The most popular composer in Beethoven’s final years, even in Vienna where he lived, was not Beethoven himself but Gioachino Rossini, whose light-as-a-feather smash-hit comic operas, such as The Barber of Seville (1816) – all laughs, saucy farce and hummable tunes – were arguably closer to the general public’s idea of an ‘Ode to Joy’.
When Rossini arrived at Beethoven’s tiny flat in Vienna, he traveled with his complete entourage of hanger-oner (like the groupies in today’s rock bands), servants and admirers. Rossini clambered up the rickety stairs to Beethoven’s tiny flat. Her was stunned at the poverty and squalor in which the greatest living composer at the time was living.
Moved by compassion, he offered to help Beethoven financially. And paid a compliment to Rossini that wounded the Italian composer to the core. Here’s an excerpt about that conversation:
“38-year-old Rossini succeeded in meeting Ludwig van Beethoven, who was then aged 51, deaf, cantankerous and in failing health. Communicating in writing, Beethoven noted: “Ah, Rossini. So you’re the composer of The Barber of Seville. I congratulate you. I love your operatic comedies. Your music will be played as long as Italian opera exists. Never try to write anything else but your operatic comedies. Serious music would do violence to your soul.”
Great Art vs. Popular Music
it was probably easier for Rossini to gain a larger following, because his Barber of Seville and other light comic operas were easily digestible, easy on the ears kinds of works. The public could “get” them in one setting, hum them on the way home, and then easily forget them as they went upon their daily lives – much like pop music “ditties,” as Irving Berlin and Cole Porter called them a century later.
When Rossini reached the age of 38, he had already written 38 operas. He was a big star akin to the most popular rock musicians today. Yet he suddenly quit composing. It is unclear whether or not Beethoven’s remark played a part in this decision. But it is a fact Rossini lived out the rest of his life without writing a single operatic score.
So maybe Great Art won over commercial successes of Popular Music in the end.