TO CELEBRATE FEB. 29, Google invites us to make a mental leap.
The Silicon Valley company touts twin events today with its search homepage logo: The frog-adorned “Doodle” marks both Leap Day and the 220th anniversary of composer Gioachino Rossini’s birth.
So how do the Italian and the amphibians quite mesh as mash-up sources in this comical swamp of a Doodle?
Well, first, you might recall that Google is fond of marking Leap Years — those quadrennial events when the human calendar comes correct with the cosmos — by calling upon its “leap frogs,” those evergreen symbols that hopped into the logo in 2004 and again in 2008.
And then there is the renowned Rossini, whom Anne Midgette, The Post’s classical music critic, calls “the quintessential cartoon composer.” The frogs in this full-throated Doodle appear quite inspired by Rossini’s 1816 comic-opera masterpiece “The Barber of Seville (Il barbiere di Siviglia)” — with the froggy Figaro (far right) orchestrating the close shave as we ponder who, in Act 2, just might get croaked. (Update: The scene also includes Count Almaviva, the singing Rosina and Bartolo.)
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But to make the ultimate ribbit-to-Rossini leap, you’ve got to get a bit geeky, cartoon-wise.
It took Comic Riffs a coupla minutes to recall this, but then it stuck like flypaper: In the classic Warner Bros. cartoon “One Froggy Evening” — the Merrie Melodies animation directed by the genius that was Chuck Jones — the high-kicking amphibian who croons ragtime tunes also belts out “Largo al Factotum.” As in: the Figaro aria from Rossini’s “Seville.”
In other words: Google has pop-culture precedent for celebrated cartoon jumping-frogs voicing their knowledge of Rossini’s opera buffa (if not of life beneath the fly loft).
(Worth noting: “One Froggy Evening” — the mid-1950s short that Steven Spielberg reportedly hailed as “the ‘Citizen Kane’ of animated film” — is now in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. Jones and his Warners’ team also drew upon the comic-friendly Rossini for the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Rabbit at Seville.”)
Today’s “Leap Day logo” is by Google Doodle team leader Ryan Germick, a designer/illustrator/comics-expert whose previous works have included two deftly interactive Doodles: Les Paul and Pac-Man. Germick also co-designed Street View Pegman and Gmail’s emoticons.
[CLICK BELOW TO READ MORE ABOUT ROSSINI — AND LEAP DAY]
THE “EXTRA DAY” that is Feb. 29 comes every four years (with exceptions) to correct the mathematical discrepancy between how humans mark time and the Earth’s actual rate of travel.
Or, as Post Style writer Dan Zak writes today, this is “a phenomenon started in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar, whose astronomists calculated that a solar year — the time it takes for the Earth to orbit the sun — lasts for 365.25 days. These astronomists were wrong by 0.008 of a day, and likely drunk. The discrepancy, which caused the seasons to regress, was corrected by the Gregorian calendar in 1582.”
It’s a far, far rarer thing, then, to be born on Feb. 29. Besides Rossini, among the other famous figures born on this date are such historical world leaders as Pope Paul III, Morarji Desai (India) and Carlos Humberto Romero (El Salvador), and such musical entertainers as Dinah Shore, Chris Conley and Ja Rule. It’s also the day that Superman’s birthday is celebrated (apparently the Man of Steel is able to leap not only tall buildings, but also years).
GIOACHINO ANTONIO ROSSINI — who was born on this date in 1792 in Pesaro, the offspring of musical parents — is the perfect fit for a Google cartoon.
“Rossini is the quintessential cartoon composer — think ‘The Rabbit of Seville’ — whose music bubbles over with humor and sound effects and toe-tapping joy,” The Post’s Midgette tells Comic Riffs. “That humor was only one facet of a prodigious talent that flowered in serious epics as well as comedies. Yet though he set more store by the epics, and indeed paved the way for Italian dramatic opera after him, it’s the comedies that are best remembered. Even the overture to his great final opera, ‘William Tell,’ is known to most people as the theme song to a radio show” — ”The Lone Ranger.”
Besides “The Barber of Seville” and “William Tell,” Rossini is also known for “Cinderella” and “Moses in Egypt.” Rossini — who was dubbed “the Italian Mozart” — was known as a genial lazybones, yet wrote 39 operas, as well as chamber and sacred music.
“His reputation for fluency and laziness — that oft-told story of him writing an overture in bed and, being too lazy to retrieve it when he dropped it to the floor, simply writing another one — is belied by the volume of work he produced,” Midgette tells ‘Riffs, “but there was some element of self-effacement.”
Rossini found stardom by his early 20s, after writing “Tancredi”and “ The Italian Girl in Algiers.” And in 1815, his “Elizabeth, Queen of England” not only was a resounding success, but also sparked his relationship with diva Isabella Colbran, whom he would marry.
But by age 40, when he was one of opera’s most popular composers, Rossini was all but retired.
“Another key point in his biography is his withdrawal, after “William Tell,’ into nearly four decades of almost complete musical silence,” Midgette says.
After years of mental and physical illness, Rossino died in 1868 in Paris and was buried in the city’s Pere Lachaise cemetery before, two decades later, his remains were moved to Florence by official request.
Happy “leap” birthday, maestro Rossini.
Comic Riffs’ TOP TWELVE ‘GOOGLE DOODLES’ THAT HONOR MUSICAL & VISUAL ARTISTS (*before today):
1. LES PAUL: THE PLAYABLE GUITAR
2. MARTHA GRAHAM: THE DANCING DOODLE
3. JOHN LENNON: IMAGINE THIS DOODLE
4. FREDDIE MERCURY: THE MUSIC VIDEO
5. JIM HENSON: THE CLICKABLE MUPPETS
6. CHARLES ADDAMS: THE SPOOKY DOODLE
7. ART CLOKEY: THE “GUMBY DOODLE”
8. MARY BLAIR: THE DISNEY DOODLE
9. DIEGO RIVERA: THE LARGER-THAN-LIFE MURAL
10. ALEXANDER CALDER: THE MOBILE DOODLE
11. WILL EISNER: THE SPIRITED DOODLE
12. RICHARD SCARRY: THE BUSTLING NEIGHBORHOOD
[GOOGLE PRIVACY: How to clear your search history]