This book examines Rossini within the context of his own time, one of Napoleonic domination of Italy, restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in Naples in 1815, and the 1830 Revolution in Paris. Using the techniques of the historian, and reading librettos as texts, the author analyzes the five operas treated in detail in the book (Il barbiere di Siviglia, Cenerentola, La gazza ladra, Matilde di Shabran, and Il viaggio a Reims) as responses, each in its own way, to the history that the composer experienced. Roberts shows that Rossini made probing commentaries on politics and religion in a time of reaction and revolution, and that the composer was well-informed on post-Napoleonic politics. Rossini's comic writing served very serious purposes, exposing the problems and complications of an age that he observed with striking clarity.
Warren Roberts is Professor Emeritus of History at the University at Albany, SUNY, and has published extensively on eighteenth-century French culture.