In the early 1800s, the operas composed by Gioachino Rossini permeated Italian culture, from theaters to myriad arrangements heard in public and private. But around 1830, not long after Rossini stopped composing new works, there was a sharp decline in popularity that drove most of these operas out of the repertory. In the past half century, they have made a spectacular return to stages worldwide, but this newly found fame has not been accompanied by a comparable critical reevaluation. Music in the Present Tense provides a fresh look at the motives behind the Rossinian furore and its aftermath by placing these works in the culture and society in which they were conceived, performed, seen, heard, and discussed. The book is in two parts. Part 1 (chapters 1-7) focuses on a set of related themes characteristic of the Rossinian discourse in early nineteenth-century Italy, which are put into dialogue with recent interpretations of Rossini’s Italian operas. Discussions of such different issues as imitation, repetition, self-borrowing, style, and genre pivot around the relationship between representation and reality posited in Rossini’s dramaturgy. In part 2 (chapters 8-15) attention shifts to the ideology behind this dramaturgy, situating the operas firmly in the context of the social practices, cultural formations, and political events of nineteenth-century Italy, and focusing on such broad themes as trauma, theatricality, modernity, memory, and pleasure. Rossini’s dramaturgy emerges from this investigation as a radically new and specifically Italian reaction to the epoch-making changes witnessed in Europe at the time.