"Give me the laundress' bill and I will even set that to music," Gioachino Rossini is reported to have joked about his status as one of the most popular composers during his life time. He wrote a variety of instrumental, chamber and sacred music, but he is best known and loved for his 39 operas, most notably Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) and La Cenerentola (Cinderella), performed all over the globe every year. We are celebrating his 224th birthday, and as poor Rossini only gets to celebrate once every four years, we're making sure to celebrate in style with a choice of Bachtrack's favourite Rossini arias.

Both Alison Karlin and Mark Pullinger chose an all-time favourite, Figaro's tongue-twisting "Largo al factotum" from Il barbiere di Siviglia. 2016 marks the opera's 200th anniversary - who would have thought it would survive its disastrous première so robustly? Here we see the aria in a Met production.

Having been narrowly beaten to the wonderful baritone showpiece, Mark adds Act 1 finale of L'italiana in AlgeriThe wily Isabella and her elderly admirer Taddeo are shipwrecked in Algiers, where Mustafà, the Bey, is instantly besotted with her. In the finale of Act I, Isabella is astonished to find that her lover, Lindoro, is the Bey's slave and is to be married off to Elvira. Confused? So are the characters, who express their astonishment in an ensemble where their heads pound with bells, hammers, cawing crows and roaring cannons. What fun! 

Dance Editor Alexandra Desvignes opts for something more subdued: In this Shakespeare400 year, it's worth remembering that Rossini wrote an opera on the story of Otello 70 years before Verdi's more familiar version. Here is Desdemona's Willow Song:

This very aria has also been chosen by Spanish Editor Katia de Miguel. The role of Desdemona is among of those characters that Rossini created for his wife, the Spanish soprano Isabella Colbran. It is one of Rossini's more enchanting arias, brilliantly composed as a set of variations. Here it you can hear it presented by Cecilia Bartoli:

David Karlin chose “Sombre forêt” from Guillaume Tell (a.k.a. “Selva opaca”, from Guglielmo Tell, in its Italian version). The text book example of how the incredible technical tricks in the bel canto playbook are used so artfully that you hardly notice them: all you get is the pure beauty, nostalgia and contemplative mood.

First up is Montserat Caballé with the French version:

Followed by the wonderful Aleksandra Kurzak singing in Italian:

French Editor Nicolas Schotter chose one of the most famous cavatinas, “Una voce poco fa”, sung in the first act of Rossini’s Barbiere by Rosina. Here’s Cecilia Bartoli’s performance, which I find fascinating for the breadth of her voice, the ease with which she tackles her coloratura, extremely clear and meaningful from a dramatic point of view, and last but not least her amazing acting abillities.

A keen chorister during her university years, Hedy Muehleck went for something a little different with an excerpt from Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle. It is neither short nor solemn, but makes for a very nice evening full of beautiful melodies, especially in the version for piano and harmonium.

Here you can hear Marina Rebeka and Sara Mingardo sing Qui tollis:

To discover more of Rossini's music, visit our dedicated dedicated composer page.