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Umorismo di Rossini

Amalia Collisani


The two major sacred compositions written by Rossini during his maturity, Stabat Mater and Petite Messe Solennelle, are considered as the beginning and end of an existential journey through which humour becomes gradually more relevant. Three critical essay, one on theStabat Mater by Heine and two on humor by Luigi Pirandello and Sigmund Freud, written during different periods of time and intellectual history, are used as instruments to define Rossini's particular humour and its formal features.
Heine's essay, Rossini and Mendelssohn, throws light on the perplexities caused by the first performances of the Stabat Mater, and suggests that his contemporaries considered that the humoristic vein was discordant with the sacred meaning of the text. Besides ingenuity (which in a Schillerian sense is essential for a religiousness deeply rooted in nature and free from stereotyped conventions and intellectual lucubrations), Heine also shows the inconsistencies which reveal the contrivances and create distance between the artist and his works: these features form the basis for taking humour as artistic realization of the philosophical definition of irony, which a few years earlier had been expressed during Romanticism.
The essay by Pirandello suggests a relationship between romantic irony and literary humour. He also studies the humoristic literary style and defines its formal features, i.e. fragmentariness, discontinuity, contrasts: a type of analysis suitable for music and in particular for Rossini's compositions. In Stabat Mater, the stylistic discontinuities concern the macrostructure, i.e., amongst the different pieces and sections of the single piece. On the other hand, in Petite Messe, fragmentariness and discontinuity concern especially the microstructure: melody and harmony are opposed to rhythm used as an instrument of stylisation and objectification in different ways.
The essay by Freud treats the psychological aspect. On this basis, one could explain the lack of Rossini's production, during his years of silence, as a therapeutical journey through which he passes from making fun about his own artistic means to being auto-ironical about using them. At the end of this journey, the Petite Messe is a challenge and a triumph: contrivance and banality live together, spaced and objectified by rhythmical pattern. Once again Rossini is able to face a masterpiece and to create a language more modern and incisive than the romantic one which had annoyed and inhibited him.

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