Conductor's Wand belonging to Gioachino Rossini

12 • A Conductor's Wand belonging to Gioachino Rossini

France, first half of 19th century
37 cm long; gold, horn (twisted)
Gilding at each end bears the initials G.R.

From the collection of Achille Jubinal (1810–1875)

‘Eating, loving, singing and digesting are, in truth, the four acts of the comic opera known as life, and they pass like bubbles of a bottle of champagne. Whoever lets them break without having enjoyed them is a complete fool.’ Gioachino Rossini

Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792–1868) was born in Pesaro on the east coast of Italy, his father an impoverished trumpeter and his mother an aspiring singer. He enrolled in his local conservatory at the age of 14, composed his first professional opera at 18, gained international fame by the age of 20 and by 37 he had retired!

At the time of his retirement Rossini was the most popular composer of opera in history and his style would continue to dominate Italian opera throughout the 19th century, his style and influence well accounted for in the Oxford History of Western Music:

‘Rossini’s fame surpassed that of any previous composer, and so, for a long time, did the popularity of his works. Audiences took to his music as if to an intoxicating drug – or, to put it more decorously, to champagne, with which Rossini’s bubbly music was constantly compared.’

Conductor's Wand belonging to Gioachino Rossini
Rossini photographed in 1856.

Rossini wrote 39 operas, acclaimed for their departure from 18th-century opera: producing more expressive material for the singers (the start of bel canto or ‘beautiful singing’), using a lighter orchestration to support them and increasing the role of the ensemble with more dramatic music to build excitement and tension. His most famous opera remains The Barber of Seville, composed in just three weeks and endorsed by Beethoven in a letter from 1822:

‘Ah, Rossini. So you’re the composer of T he Barber of Seville. I congratulate you. It will be played as long as Italian opera exists.’

This conductor’s wand was exhibited in 1872 at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria & Albert Museum) during an exhibition called ‘Ancient Musical Instruments’, in which it was described as follows:

‘Another baton, 19th century, in horn wound in gold, belonging to Rossini and bearing his initials.’