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The Men Behind the Music

August 05, 2008

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    August 05, 2008
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    Opera Carolina News

The Men Behind the Music

Charlotte, NC – Gounod. Rossini. Mozart. Puccini. Known for their individual style, musical flair, and international renown, these composers have been instrumental in the construction of grand opera’s repertoire, and their legacies will continue to delight audiences for centuries to come.
Charles Gounod: Faust

Charles Gounod was born in Paris on June 18, 1818. His mother, a local piano teacher, introduced him to music and later inspired him to attend the Paris Conservatoire. After completing his studies in Paris, Gounod traveled to Italy in 1838 and was influenced by the music of Schumann and Berlioz. One year later, he won the Prix de Rome for his cantata Fernand. Throughout his life, Gounod remained fascinated with religious music, especially 16th century polyphony. In 1851, Gounod wrote his first opera Sapho (1851), but it wasn’t until eight years later when he was recognized for his first great opera, Faust. However, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and his move to England created an unprofitable interruption to his fame. By his death in 1893, Gounod had completed 12 operas, including Mireille (1864) and Roméo et Juliette (1867), yet it was his fascination with liturgical music that steadfastly inspired him.

Gioachino Rossini: The Barber of Seville

Known as Italian Opera’s Comic Genius and the leading opera composer of the first half of the 19th century, Gioachino Rossini was the master of simple melody and clear rhythm. Born in 1792 to a musical family – his father a trumpet player, his mother an opera singer – Rossini mastered the trade at an early age, writing his first opera at age eight and becoming a national celebrity by the time he was twenty-one years old. From Venice to Milan and from Rome to Naples, Rossini gained a reputation for his notable style and uncanny speed of producing operas. Between 1808 and 1829, Rossini composed no fewer than 40 operas. In 1822, Rossini settled in Paris and became the Royal Composer and Inspector General of Singing in France. Despite his enormous success – even the great Beethoven congratulated him on The Barber of Seville (1816) – Rossini stopped composing at the age of 37. Living off the wealth of his achievements, Rossini lived lavishly until his death on November 13, 1868. He was buried in Paris, but 19 years later his remains were re-interred in the church of Santa Croce in Florence.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro

Born in Salzburg in 1756, Mozart was the son of Leopold Mozart, a leading music teacher in Vienna and Anna Maria Pertl Mozart. Known for his incredible ear for music, Mozart visited the Vatican to hear Allegri’s Miserere and later wrote it down in completion from memory – at age 13! In 1782, Mozart wrote the opera The Abduction from the Seraglio, which was received as a great success; one month later he married Costanze Weber against his father’s wishes. Plagued by money troubles, Mozart continued to travel throughout his life, looking for various modes of employment – freelance composing, commissions for heads of state, and music lessons. In 1776, Mozart met Lorenzo de Ponte, a poet, who later supplied the libretti for three of his operas: The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), and Così fan tutte (1790). Mozart died under mysterious circumstances in 1791, leaving the Requiem Mass in D Minor, one of his most recognizable works, unfinished. Over his lifetime, Mozart composed over 600 works and remains one of the most iconic figures in classical music.

Giacomo Puccini: Turandot

Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, Italy on December 22, 1858. After seeing Verdi's Aida in March of 1876, Puccini decided he would make opera his life's work. In 1880, Puccini enrolled at the Milan Conservatory where he worked diligently at his music and received his diploma in 1883. Twenty years separate the premieres of Giacomo Puccini's first opera, Le Villi, from the premiere of his sixth opera, Madama Butterfly. In those twenty years, Puccini had become the acknowledged heir to the great Giuseppe Verdi as the leading composer of Italian opera, blazing a trail of success that shifted opera into new realms of realism. Puccini collaborated with several librettists on his works, including the aforementioned Luigi Illica, and Giuseppe Giacosa. His most famed operas include: La Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1904), and Turandot (1926)-unfinished at the time of Puccini's death and later completed by Franco Alfano, one of Puccini's protégées. A lifelong smoker, Puccini was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1924. He underwent surgery, which left him unable to speak. Puccini died of a heart attack four days later on November 29, 1924 in Brussels.

The 2008/2009 Season opens with Faust October 18, 23 & 26, followed by The Barber of Seville January 24, 25, 29 & 31, Love Notes February 14, The Marriage of Figaro March 7, 8, 12 & 14, and Turandot April 16, 18, & 19. All mainstage Opera Carolina productions will be performed at the Belk Theater in the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Love Notes will be held at Dana Auditorium at Queens University of Charlotte. Season tickets are available now ranging from $36 to $409 in your choice of 5-, 4-, 3-, or 2-opera plans. Single tickets range from $20 to $125 and go on sale August 1. Tickets may be ordered by calling 704.335.1010 or online at www.operacarolina.org. Consistently appearing in The Charlotte Observer’s “101 Things to Do in Charlotte,” check Opera Carolina off the list and be a part of the 2008/2009 season!

For further ticketing information, events, libretti, full cast listings and bios, education information, and other opera news, please visit www.operacarolina.org. All performances feature the Opera Carolina Chorus and The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Opera Carolina would like to thank presenting sponsors: Time Warner Cable and The Hearst Corporation.


Founded in 1948 as the Charlotte Opera Association by a small group of volunteers, Opera Carolina today is the largest professional opera company in the Carolinas with an operating budget of over $3.5 million. The mission of Opera Carolina is to inspire the region's diverse community through the presentation of excellent Opera, Operetta, Music Theater, and Education & Outreach programs that elevate the quality of life in the Carolinas. Opera Carolina is a community resource with a commitment to artistic excellence and community service.

Opera Carolina is supported by the Arts & Science Council-Charlotte/Mecklenburg, Inc., The North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of North Carolina, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Opera Carolina is a member of OPERA America.