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ROSSINIMANIA, Vienna 1822 • Special Exhibition as part of the Whitsun Festival

11 APR 2014

published in: Whitsun

Wallpaper design for the exhibition “Rossinimania, Vienna 1822” (Copyright: Da Ponte Research Center, 2014)
When Gioachino Rossini arrived in Vienna in March 1822, the Viennese premiere of the opera Zelmira had long been scheduled at the Kärntnertortheater, performances of nine of his popular operas were being prepared and many a meeting with illustrious personalities of the day, such as Metternich or Beethoven, may have been “in the works”, as we would say today. The maestro arrived with his troupe of singers from Naples, where he had been feted at the Royal Teatro San Carlo, and was to move on to London in July. Rossini’s sojourn in Vienna can be considered an early “festival” format – the exhibit ROSSINIMANIA, Vienna 1822 tries to make the timeliness of this event understandable, to present it to an audience of today like a cultural and musical backstage history accompanying the Whitsun Festival. Thus, personalities from Rossini’s intimate circle literally step into the limelight – for example his wife Isabella Colbran, the troupe’s soprano “superstar”. This stay in Vienna might have been planned by both of them as a honeymoon – they had only got married in Bologna on March 16, and on March 23 the newlyweds arrived in the Imperial city of Vienna. They were greeted with great festivity – later, the term “Rossini fever” was coined. In the exhibit, the viewer experiences Rossini’s presence in Vienna, learning details of his daily routine and the Viennese passion for opera from contemporary press reports, which reflect how all of Vienna paid homage to the great maestro from Italy, and how he reciprocated with gratitude.

During the maestro’s presence in the city, there was also a fashion for “clothes à la Rossini”, which may have referred to Rossini’s striking outfits and appearance. Vienna would not have been Vienna if the caricaturists had not picked up on this. Among other objects, the exhibit shows autographs of scores and letters, first editions of scores, portraits of the personalities involved, playbills and the contemporary press reports on the event. In a kind of “staged and conceptualised space of knowledge”, it attempts to create a collage of cultural history and digital visualisations, in order to make the plentiful “context” of Rossini’s glamorous stay in Vienna perceivable to a younger audience as well, as a sensual experience.

Thus, we encounter “Viennese society” and its highly developed musical culture, which was also a critical seismograph of merciless judgment and condemnation – we learn about the world of intrigues surrounding the “medium” of opera, reflecting the dualism of the courtly sphere and the nascent bourgeois culture of the Biedermeier era. Seven years after the Congress of Vienna, the Imperial city of Vienna presented itself as one of the European capitals of music, whose society in the early 19th century may well have been inspired by progressive ideas – but was industriously “observed” by Metternich and his police force and limited in its burgeoning striving for freedom by the authorities; after all, German attempts to unify the Reich had already successfully been repelled. The depiction of Vienna as Rossini may have perceived it is a focus of the exhibit – considering that understanding history requires constant changes of perspective: the Italian Rossini, one of the most prominent protagonists of Italian opera with belcanto singing, arriving in a city where Carl Maria von Weber also represented “German opera”. Conveying all these aspects to a youthful audience is the particular aim of “ROSSINIMANIA, VIENNA 1822” – guided tours of the exhibit and discussions are offered to high school and university students.

Text (abridged): Herbert Lachmayer


Curator and Design Herbert Lachmayer
Curatorial Assistance and Scientific Research Teresa Hrdlicka, Miriam Landkammer, Flora Schausberger and Valeria Bibliowicz
Graphic Design Edith Bergmann and Patrick Weber
Digital Media Daniel Dobler (IM Solutions)
Education Silke Pfeifer
Copyright Da Ponte Research Center, 2014

The exhibit is conceived with a particular view to students wishing to gain an insight into Rossini’s life and musical world. Information on free tours is available here.