Rossini’s contemporaries perceived repetition as a distinguishing feature of his style, but they located it in somewhat different parameters from those of twentieth- and twenty-first-century commentators, focusing instead on his self-borrowing of themes, melodies, movements, and even entire numbers. Many explicitly linked self-borrowing to Rossini’s cavalier attitude toward the verbal text—a carelessness that, according to them, made possible the use of the same music for different words. An exploration of the Milanese press of the first fifteen years of the nineteenth century suggests that the critics’ attacks on self-borrowing (as distinct from plagiarism) emerged only in the early 1810s, more or less at the same time as Rossini’s works took the city by storm. What’s more, such attacks were also directed against contemporary composer Stefano Pavesi.
Keywords: repetition, self-borrowing, plagiarism, operatic criticism, Milan, Stefano Pavesi