Saturday, December 18, 2021

Stendhal Meets Rossini / Who Crows for You?

Above Bantam, comic shadow caricature by British artist Charles Henry Bennett, Victorian illustrator.


Stendhal (Marie Henri Beyle), author of The Red and the Black, describing an incident in a visit to Italy in 1817—

We halted in Terracina, and there…we were invited to take supper with a party of travellers newly arrived out of Naples. Gathered about the table, I observed some seven or eight persons, amongst whom, in particular, my eyes lighted upon a fair-haired young man, of some five or six-and-twenty years of age, astonishingly handsome in spite of a slight touch of baldness. I pressed him for news of Naples, and in particular, of music in that city: he answered my curiosity with answers that were clear-cut, brilliant and humorous. I enquired of him whether, when I reach Naples, I might still hope to see [Gioachino] Rossinis Otello. I pursued the topic, asserting that, in my opinion, Rossini was the bright hope of the Italian school; that he was the only living composer who had true genius as his birthright. At this point I noticed that my man seemed faintly embarrassed, while his companions were grinning openly. To cut a long story short, this was Rossini.