Colbran, born in Madrid, studied under Girolamo Crescenti in Paris. By the age of twenty she had achieved fame throughout Europe for her voice. She moved to Naples, a hub of European music during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Teatro di San Carlo, built during the Bourbon dynasty, had been home to famous singers like the castrato Farinelli and represented a destination venue for talented singers.
|Isabella Colbran als Desdemona|
Barbaia engaged Gioachino Rossini, the most famous composer of his time, to pen a series of Neapolitan operas as a vehicle for Colbran’s rich vocal gifts. It didn’t turn out as he planned: Colbran left him for Rossini!
|As Elizabeth, Queen of England|
In 1815, with Isabella at the peak of her popularity, Rossini composed the title role of Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra especially for his muse. In Otello, Ossia il Moro di Venezia she sang Desdemona.
They tied the knot in 1822, and their fruitful musical marriage continued with Armida, Mosè in Egitto, Ricciardo e Zoraide, Ermione, La donna del Iago, Maometto II and Zelmira, all composed by Rossini for his leading lady.
The ninth and final work Rossini wrote for Isabella was "Semiramide" which she premiered at La Fenice, Venice, on February 3, 1823; the couple traveled to London in 1824 but Isabella's voice was already in decline and after her flop as Zelmira she sang little, finally leaving the stage in 1827. The marriage was rocky as Isabella was a compulsive gambler and Rossini had a poor concept of fidelity but the couple did not formally separate until 1836. Rossini's enduring fame rests on operas not written for Isabella but he was always to cite her as the greatest interpreter of his music.