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Rossini's operas resound in the Italian town of Pesaro

By Nick Rossi / October 11, 1983



Pesaro, Italy

The name Rossini is hardly a household word in America. The composer is known in the United States almost exclusively for his opera ''The Barber of Seville''; the orchestral overture to ''William Tell'' (without which the Lone Ranger might not have ridden to such prominence in the days of radio); and for tournedos Rossinim, the gourmet's delight made with tender fillet of beef and pate de foie gras.

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Not so in Italy, where most of Rossini's better-known operas - including ''L'Italiana in Algeri,'' ''Semiramide,'' ''Le Comte Ory,'' and ''Guillaume Tell'' - are regularly staged. And especially not in Pesaro, the town of his birth, which is attempting to present all of his 39 operas during its annual Rossini Opera Festivals.

Three operas were staged at Pesaro's Teatro G. Rossini during a recently concluded festival: ''La Donna del Lago,'' based on Sir Walter Scott's ''The Lady of the Lake''; ''Il Turco in Italia'' (''The Turk in Italy''), a rollicking comedy of love, intrigue, and mistaken identity; and ''Mose in Egitto'' (''Moses in Egypt''), labeled by the composer ''a sacred story of tragic impact.''

In addition to the operas, Rossini's liturgical masterpiece, ''Stabat Mater, '' was presented in the concert hall of the Conservatory of Music G. Rossini.

The Rossini Opera Festival, now in its fourth season, aspires to a position of international prominence equal to that of the Mozart Festival in Salzburg and the Wagner summers at Bayreuth. I am not quite certain, however, that the citizenry of Pesaro are aware yet of the importance and significance this festival has already achieved and what its potential for the future could be.

Located on the Adriatic coast of Italy, a little to the south of the better-known and more fashionably elegant resorts of Rimini and Riccioni, this quiet, bucolic town of 90,000 inhabitants is actually divided into two distinct sections. There is the old town, founded in AD 180, mostly made up of 17th- and 18th-century two-story brick or stucco buildings with red tile roofs.

Then there is a two-mile strip about four blocks wide along the water's edge, consisting of functionally modern family resort hotels catering to large flocks of Italians and visiting groups of Germans that move to the seaside every August for the annual ferie (vacation).

Via Rossini, a street less than a mile in length and running at a right angle to the seashore, is the central axis of Pesaro. Starting at the water's edge (at the Piazza della Liberta), it passes the narrow four-story brick house in which Gioacchino Rossini was born on the 29th of February 1792; continues to the north side of the main square, the Piazza del Popolo with its Ducal Palace; and arrives a few blocks further at the Teatro G. Rossini, the center of the festival.

Known originally as the Teatro del Sole (Theater of the Sun), when it was founded in 1637, the house has gone through a series of renovations and reconstructions because of repeated fires and the ravages of World War II. The final restoration was accomplished in 1966. It is a small jewel of an opera house, the interior laid out in the horseshoe shape so popular during the baroque era. It seats less than 100 on the main floor, above which rise four tiers of boxes surmounted by a gallery for standees. The acoustics are excellent , and the theater truly provides a most complementary ambiance for its singers.