Il signor Bruschino Synopsis

This one-act farce by Gioachino Rossini revolves around the love between two young people, Sofia and Florville. Sadly, Sofia has been promised to another. Her guardian, Gaudenzio, has decided she will marry the son of his friend Signor Bruschino. Neither Gaudenzio nor Sofia has ever met the young man. But Florville does not give up--he is determined to marry his beloved. As luck would have it, he hears the news that Bruschino Jr. has been detained by the owner of a local tavern, where he has run up a significant gambling debt. Florville cleverly decides to go to Gaudenzio’s house and impersonate the young man in his absence. Alas, an out-of-temper Signor Bruschino Sr. shows up and insists that, despite the young man’s protestations, this is not his son. The police are called, but are unable to confirm that Florville is in fact an impostor. To make matters even more complicated, the innkeeper arrives, anxious to receive payment for Bruschino Jr.’s debt. Everyone believes that Signor Bruschino is denying his paternity out of anger. Gaudenzio decides that Sofia and the false Bruschino Jr. (actually, Florville) should be married immediately. As soon as they are joined in marriage, who should walk in, but Bruschino Jr. himself? The ruse is up, but it’s too late, Sofia and Florville are already pledged to each other. Gaudenzio accepts the situation. Love wins.

Il signor Bruschino Background

Rossini, The Teatro San Moiesè, and the Beginning of it All

By the time the eighteen-year old Gioachino Rossini made his professional debut in 1810 with La cambiale di matrimonio at Venice's Teatro San Moisè, the theater was one of the oldest functioning opera houses in a city that boated around a dozen of them.

The San Moisè opened as a pros theater in 1620, and had its first public opera twenty years later (Monteverdi's L'Arianna). Located next to the church of San Moisè at the site of what is now the Bauer hotel, the theater was set almost exactly halfway between Venice's largest theater (Teatro La Fenice) and its largest area of religious, political, and touristic activity (the Piazza San Marco).

It was always one of the smaller opera houses of the city with around 700 seats, making it suitable for the intimacy of opera (at the time, very few operas in the world had more than 1,000 seats). In its earliest years, the theater produced a heavy dose of serious opera. When La Fenice opened in 1792, the San Moisè began introducing more and more one-act comedies (or farse), and the season Rossini debuted with La cambiale di matrimonio, the ratio of one-act to two-act operas was 10:1.

During the short period in which Rossini composed his five one-act farse (1810-1813), the San Moisè was already in decline and looking for ways to save money. One-act operas, with their small cast, lack of chorus, and simple sets were ideally suited to this purpose. Writing about this period later in life, Rossini said that
" is easy to see that everything tended toward facilitating the debut of a beginner maestro, who, better than in an opera of four or five acts, in a farsa could sufficiently display his innate imagination (if Heaven had granted it to him!!) and his technique (if he had learned it)."

Rossini straddled the period between when operas were composed, performed, and forgotten, and the establishment of a standard entrenched repertoire. In many ways his second one-act L'inganno felice (1812) is the beginning of this. By far his most popular one-act opera during its time, it still held the public's attention nine years later (an eternity in 19th century operatic terms), when it was Rossini's 3rd most produced opera in all of Italy, and Il barbiere di Siviglia and La cenerentola. This in a year when out of 373 opera productions in Italy, 150 were by Rossini. 

The other two one-act operas for the San Moisè in 1812 (La scala di seta and L'occasione fa il ladro) were decidedly less sucessful that La cambiale di matrimonio and L'inganno felice. His final opera for Teatro San Moisè (Il signor Bruschino, 1813) failed completely at the premiere, and yet it is his most widely performed one-act opera today.

Ten days after Il signor Bruschino opened at the San Moisè, Rossini's Tancredi premiered at La Fenice. Three months later, his L'italiana in Algeri premiered at yet another Venetian theater, the Teatro San Benedetto. These last two operas sealed his fate - and his international reputation - a process begun only four years earlier in the Teatro San Moisè with La cambiale di matrimonio