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Gaetano Rossi

Biography

Gaetano Rossi (1774–1855) was an Italian opera librettist, active in the profession for nearly sixty years from 1797. Among his key achievements is the libretto for Rossini’s Semiramide (1823).

Rossi was born in Verona and began his writing career at the age of 13, writing religious verses. His early librettos were primarily for farces, and he continued to write comic librettos alongside ones on heroic historical subjects. He collaborated with some of the leading composers of the bel canto era, including Rossini (La cambiale di matrimonio, Tancredi and Semiramide), Meyerbeer (Il crociato in Egitto), Mayr (including on Ginevra di Scozia), Giovanni Pacini (including I cavalieri di Valenza) and Mercadante (I due illustri rivali). He was the librettist for Donizetti’s late opera Linda di Chamounix, and co-authored the libretto (along with the composer) for Donizetti’s Maria Padilla. In addition to his work as a writer, Rossi also worked for some years as a stage director for Verona’s Teatro Filarmonico, where singers remembered him as being intelligent, helpful and practical.

Rossi had only a limited opinion of his own worth as a writer –?he described himself as a ‘windbag’ rather than a poet – and his verses can be somewhat crude. However, he had a great talent for finding interesting libretto sources from theatre (particularly French drama), containing powerful dramatic situations and romantic relationships.