La Traviata was first performed in 1853. One of Verdi’s most famous operas, it tells the story of a doomed love affair between a young and beautiful girl of dubious reputation and a young man from the proper social circles. The Prelude to Act III opens with a high ethereal melody played by divided violins. Its foreboding tone and mood set the stage for the opera’s tragic conclusion.
Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) is best known for his masterful comic operas. He was a prolific composer who, at one point, composed 16 operas in 6 years – and then retired when he was 37 years old!
Rossini wrote this overture for one of his best-known operas, The Barber of Seville, which premiered in Rome in 1816. Opening with a loud fanfare, it immediately drops to a whisper – foreshadowing the comic (yet elegant) nature of the piece. Abruptly shifting gears to a fast tempo in a minor key, Rossini alternates thunderous fortissimos with witty wind melodies. Several long crescendo passages add even more drama to the overture, which finishes with a flourish at the end of a breakneck finale.