Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for The Barber of Seville

Dr. Bob Prescribes – Rossini: The Barber of Seville

Oft’ have I moaned and groaned about the licensing contracts signed by The Teaching Company/Great Courses and various recording companies, contracts that precluded me from identifying the performers heard on the musical excerpts in my courses. Yes indeed, this is entirely counter-intuitive; one would think that the record companies would want me to name-names, the better to sell those albums being excerpted in the courses. But like quantum mechanics, the actions of these companies remain unfathomable; weird business.  Because I wasn’t allowed to name performers, I would estimate that roughly 50% of the mail I’ve received over the years in response to my courses has been about the recordings I’ve used: folks want to know who played this, who sang that. In many cases I don’t know at all, because in the early years I was often sent recordings for audition on cassettes with no indication as to the identity of the performers. For example, to this day, I haven’t a clue as to any of the performers on the recordings I chose for my Symphonies of Beethoven course, recorded in 1995. Every now and then – by begging, scraping, whining, banging on tables, and giving noogies – I managed […]

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Music History Monday: The Futile Precaution

On June 5, 1816 – 201 years ago today – the Italian opera composer Giovanni Paisiello died in Naples at the age of 76. Although almost entirely forgotten today, Paisiello was – in his lifetime – among the most famous, successful and popular opera composers of his time. He composed an absolutely amazing amount of music, including 94(!) operas, a tremendous amount of church music (including passions, oratorios, sacred cantatas, canticles, hymns, psalms and 8 masses), over 50 instrumental works (including 9 string quartets and 8 concerti for keyboard), 20 secular cantatas, and a huge number of stand-alone songs. Whoa. His operas, written in the direct, tuneful, so-called “Neapolitan Style”, were instrumental (pardon the pun) in creating the newfangled comic opera (opera buffa) style that was embraced by audiences across Europe during the Enlightenment. Most important, at least to my mind, is that Paisiello’s over 80 comic operas had a decisive influence on one Wolfgang Mozart, who went on to elevate the erstwhile popular genre of opera buffa to the level of highest art. Paisiello’s single most popular opera was The Barber of Seville or The Futile Precaution, composed in 1782 while he was living in St. Petersburg and working […]

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