The Spanish violinist Giovanni Colbran (Nava del Rey, Valladolid, 1751 - Bologna, 1820) left Spain in the early 1800s to start his daughter Isabella’s opera career, taking her first to France and then to Italy. In 1812 Giovanni Colbran bought a villa in Castenaso near Bologna from the Royal Spanish College, then left it to Isabella who lived there until her death.
The villa was sold in 1851, destroyed by a fire during the Second World War, and now only its well and gateposts remain. Isabella Colbran (Madrid, 1785 - Castenaso, 1845) had instant success as a highly talented singer and a composer. Her first Italian performance took place in Bologna in April 1807. A great actress and sophisticated performer, in 1815 she had the leading role in the first opera composed by Gioacchino Rossini for Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra (Elizabeth, Queen of England). Isabella Colbran then played the leading role in many other Italian operas by Rossini, whom she married on 15 March 1822 in Our Lady of Pilar Church in Castenaso. On Giovanni Colbran’s death in 1820, Gioacchino Rossini bought a tomb with the intention of having a funerary monument in Certosa di Bologna made for him and his family: “Gioacchino Rossini applies for ownership of a tomb for his family, and to now bury there Mr. Giovanni Colbran his Wife’s Father, so that the said tomb be fully owned by the two families Rossini and Colbran”. The monument, initially commissioned from Adamo Tadolini, was later created in 1823 by the sculptor Del Rosso from Carrara and placed in the Large East Cloister, Arch 6, of Certosa, where it is still to be found. Isabella is sculpted in the monument, seated and leaning against a column supporting her father’s bust. Below, a winged cherub plays a lyre. Later buried in the same tomb were Rossini’s mother Anna Guidarini, a singer (Pesaro, 1771 - Bologna, 1827), his father Giuseppe, a trumpet player (1764 - 1839) and Isabella Colbran, from whom the musician had separated by mutual consent in 1837. In 1846, the year after Isabella’s death, Rossini married his second wife, Olimpia Pélissier. Gioacchino Rossini (Pesaro, 1792 - Passy de Paris, 1868), was buried next to Chopin and Bellini in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris after a solemn funeral. In May 1887 his mortal remains were moved to Santa Croce Church in Florence, near those of other great Italian artists.
Text taken from: R. Martorelli (edited by), La Certosa di Bologna - Un libro aperto sulla storia, exhibition catalogue, Tipografia Moderna, Bologna, 2009.