In 1782, Giovanni Paisiello composed an Italian comic opera based on the 1775 French comedy The Barber of Seville. The work was extremely popular with both audiences and critics, who hailed it as a triumph. For over three decades Paisiello’s opera was considered the definitive version of The Barber. Then, in 1815, Gioachino Rossini composed a new and very different version of the same comedy. Rossini’s opera met with incredible resistance. Paisiello wasn’t at all pleased to hear of this new version, and neither were his legions of fans! Just who did this upstart Rossini think he was?
Rossini’s version premiered on February 20, 1816, at the Teatro Argentina in Rome. When the young composer arrived for the performance he was greeted by an angry mob. His associates hustled Rossini into the theater where, a short time later, an audience composed mostly of Paisiello’s passionate and vocal supporters jeered and hissed throughout the performance. Not only was Rossini’s Barber of Seville a total failure, but also, before it was over, several on-stage accidents had occurred.
Undaunted, the composer arrived a few days later for a second performance. On that fateful day, Rossini was again hurried through the mob. The audience was quieter, and the performance went far more smoothly, but afterwards, when Rossini left the theater through a back entrance, he was met by the same mob as before. Only this time, his entourage failed to keep away the crowd. Yes, the mob closed in and the next thing Rossini knew he’d been dragged off his feet. A moment later he found himself hoisted up … and carried atop the hysterical crowd, as the people paraded their new operatic hero upon their shoulders through the streets, praising the name ROSSINI !!
Today, few remember the name or work of Paisiello; but Rossini’s Barber of Seville has endured as one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy within music. Even more than two centuries later, its popularity on the modern opera stage attests to its greatness.
We all know the expression “That’s a hard act to follow”; but if you’re a performer, musician, or writer, and you’re following in the footsteps of someone who’s famous and successful; or if you’re simply trying something new and different, take heart. Many times the naysayers know nothing!
When director Tim Burton announced that the comedic actor Michael Keaton would be playing Batman in the 1989 movie, fans gasped. “Are you kidding! ‘Mr. Mom’ can’t be Batman! He’ll ruin the movie!” Well, Burton was doing something different, and his film was a box-office bonanza. So how did Keaton manage in a darker role? Just fine. And he even returned for a sequel. In fact, when Keaton moved on and Warners recast the part, the fans lamented.
Nearly two decades later, Warners decided to reboot the franchise, and it’s new director, Christopher Nolan, announced that Welsh actor Christian Bale would be playing Batman. “You can’t be serious!” the fans yelled. “The sicko from American Psycho is going to play our hero?” Hey, come on, that’s why they’re actors. Bale’s portrayal is now considered by most fans to be the definitive Batman, and after three movies it’s tough getting used to another actor in the role. But Ben Affleck, in the fourth incarnation of the character, is doing a fine job. No, it doesn’t always pay to be a naysayer.
Someone once said, and it may even have been Steven Spielberg, that Harrison Ford is too well known as the space pirate Han Solo from his Star Wars movies; and that he’ll never be able to convince audiences that he’s the adventurous straight-arrow archeologist Indiana Jones. In fact, the part almost went to Tom Selleck, who bowed out at the last minute to continue starring in Magnum P.I. But after Raiders of the Lost Ark and its three sequels … well, Ford obviously proved any naysayers wrong.
Do you have any naysayers in your life? Persevere! And prove them wrong!
“God never changes His mind when He gives gifts or when He calls someone.” (Romans 11:29 GW)