The Barber of SevilleFor other uses, see The Barber of Seville (disambiguation). Operas by Gioachino Rossini
La cambiale di matrimonio (1810)
L'equivoco stravagante (1811)
L'inganno felice (1812)
Ciro in Babilonia (1812)
La scala di seta (1812)
Demetrio e Polibio (1812)
La pietra del paragone (1812)
L'occasione fa il ladro (1812)
Il signor Bruschino (1813)
L'italiana in Algeri (1813)
Aureliano in Palmira (1813)
Il turco in Italia (1814)
Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra (1815)
Torvaldo e Dorliska (1815)
The Barber of Seville (1816)
La gazzetta (1816)
La Cenerentola ( 1817)
La gazza ladra (1817)
Adelaide di Borgogna (1817)
Mosè in Egitto (1818)
Ricciardo e Zoraide (1818)
Eduardo e Cristina (1819)
La donna del lago (1819)
Bianca e Falliero (1819)
Maometto II (1820)
Matilde di Shabran (1821)
Il viaggio a Reims (1825)
Le siège de Corinthe (1826)
Moïse et Pharaon ( 1827)
Le comte Ory (1828)
Guillaume Tell ( 1829)
The Barber of Seville, or The Useless Precaution (Il barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L'inutile precauzione) is an opera buffa in two acts by Gioachino Rossini with a libretto (based on Beaumarchais's comedy Le Barbier de Séville) by Cesare Sterbini. The overture, first written for Aureliano in Palmira, is a famous example of Rossini’s characteristic Italian style.
- 1 History
- 2 Roles
- 3 Synopsis
- 4 Selected recordings
- 5 In popular culture
- 6 References
- 7 External links
An opera based on the play had previously been composed by Giovanni Paisiello, and another was composed in 1796 by Nicholas Isouard. Though the work of Paisiello triumphed for a time, Rossini's later version alone has stood the test of time and continues to be a mainstay of operatic repertoire.
Rossini's opera follows the first of the plays from the Figaro trilogy, by French playwright Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, while Mozart's opera Le nozze di Figaro composed 30 years earlier in 1786 is based on the second part of the Beaumarchais trilogy. The original Beaumarchais version was first performed in 1775, in Paris at the Comédie Française at the Tuileries Palace.
Rossini is well known for his fast work at composition, and true to his style, all the music for Il Barbiere di Siviglia was completed in under three weeks; though the famous overture was actually borrowed from two prior Rossini operas, Aureliano in Palmira and Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra. Barbiere's first performance on February 20, 1816 was a disastrous failure: the audience hissed and jeered throughout, and several on-stage accidents occurred. However, many of the audience were supporters of one of Rossini's rivals who played on "mob mentality" to provoke the rest of the audience to dislike the opera. The second performance met with quite a different fate, becoming a roaring success. It is curious to note that the original French play of Le Barbier de Séville endured a similar story, hated at first only to become a hit within a week.
As a staple of the operatic repertoire, Barber appears on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America, where it appears as Number 5. The role of Rosina, although written for a mezzo-soprano, has, in the past, and sometimes in more recent times, been sung in transposition by sopranos such as Maria Callas, Beverly Sills, Lily Pons, Victoria de los Angeles and Kathleen Battle. Famous recent mezzo-soprano Rosinas include Teresa Berganza, Cecilia Bartoli and Jennifer Larmore.
RolesRole Voice type Premiere Cast, February 20, 1816
(Conductor: Gioachino Rossini) Rosina, Bartolo's ward mezzo-sopranoor sopranoGeltrude RighettiDoctor Bartolo, Rosina's guardian bassBartolomeo Botticelli Count Almaviva, a local nobleman tenore di graziaManuel GarciaFigaro, the Barber of Seville baritoneLuigi ZamboniFiorello, the Count's servant bass Paolo Biagelli Basilio, Bartolo's accomplice bass Zenobio Vitarelli Berta (Marcellina), servant to Doctor Bartolo soprano Elisabetta Loiselet Ambrogio, servant to Doctor Bartolo silent A notary silent
The square in front of Dr. Bartolo's house
In a public square outside Dr. Bartolo's house a band of musicians and a poor student named Lindoro are serenading, to no avail, the window of Rosina ("Ecco ridente in cielo"/"There laughing in the sky"). Lindoro, who is really Count Almaviva in disguise, hopes to make the beautiful Rosina love him for himself - not his money. Almaviva pays off the musicians who then depart, leaving him to brood alone.
Figaro approaches singing (Aria: "Largo al factotum della città"/"Make way for the factotum of the city"). Since Figaro used to be a servant of the Count, the Count asks him for assistance in helping him meet Rosina, offering him money should he be successful in arranging this. (Duet: "All'idea di quel metallo"/"At the idea of that metal"). Figaro advises the Count to disguise himself as a soldier and to feign drunkenness in order to gain entrance to the house and, for this suggestion, he is richly rewarded.
Dr. Bartolo's house
The scene begins with Rosina's cavatina: "Una voce poco fa"/"A voice just now". (This aria was originally written in the key of E-major for a mezzo-soprano voice, but it is sometimes transposed a 1/2 tone up into F-major for coloratura sopranos to perform, giving them the chance to sing extra slightly-traditional cadenzas sometimes reaching high D's or even F's, as is the case of Diana Damrau's performances.)
Knowing the Count only by the name of Lindoro, Rosina writes to him. As she is leaving the room, Bartolo and Basilio enter. Bartolo is suspicious of the Count, and Basilio advises that he be put out of the way by creating false rumours about him (this aria, "La calunnia è un venticello"/"Calumny is a little breeze" is almost always sung a tone lower than the original D major).
When the two have gone, Rosina and Figaro enter. The latter asks Rosina to write a few encouraging words to Lindoro, which she has actually already written. (Duet: "Dunque io son...tu non m'inganni?"/"Then I'm the one...you're not fooling me?"). Although surprised by Bartolo, Rosina manages to fool him, but he remains suspicious. (Aria: "A un dottor della mia sorte"/"To a doctor of my class").
As Berta attempts to leave the house, she is met by the Count disguised as an intoxicated soldier. In fear of the drunken man, she rushes to Bartolo for protection and he tries to remove the supposed soldier, but does not succeed. The Count manages to have a quick word with Rosina, whispering that he is Lindoro and passing her a letter. The watching Bartolo is suspicious and demands to know what is in the piece of paper in Rosina's hands, but she fools him by handing over her laundry list. Bartolo and the Count start arguing and, when Basilio, Figaro and Berta appear, the noise attracts the attention of the Officer of the Watch and his men. Bartolo believes that the Count has been arrested, but Almaviva only has to mention his name to the officer to be released. Bartolo and Basilio are astounded, and Rosina makes sport of them. (Finale: "Fredda ed immobile"/"Cold and unmoving").
Dr. Bartolo's house
Almaviva again appears at the doctor's house, this time disguised as a singing tutor and pretending to act as substitute for the supposedly ailing Basilio, Rosina's regular singing teacher. Initially, Bartolo is suspicious, but does allow Almaviva to enter when the Count gives him Rosina's letter. He describes his plan to discredit Lindoro whom he believes to be one of the Count's servants, intent on pursuing women for his master. In order not to leave Lindoro alone with Rosina, the doctor has Figaro shave him. (Quintet: "What, Basilio! what do I see?").
When Basilio suddenly appears, he is bribed to feign sickness by a full purse from Almaviva. Finally Bartolo detects the trick, drives everybody out of the room, and rushes to a notary to draw up the marriage contract between himself and Rosina. He also shows Rosina the letter she wrote to "Lindoro," and convinces her that Lindoro is merely a flunky of Almaviva.
The stage remains empty while the music creates a thunder storm. The Count and Figaro climb up a ladder to the balcony and enter the room through a window. Rosina shows Almaviva the letter and expresses her feelings of betrayal and heartbreak. Almaviva reveals his identity and the two reconcile. While Almaviva and Rosina are enraptured by one another, Figaro keeps urging them to leave. Two people are heard approaching the front door, and attempting to leave by way of the ladder, they realize it has been removed. The two are Basilio and the notary and Basilio is given the choice of accepting a bribe and being a witness or receiving two bullets in the head (an easy choice, he says). He and Figaro witness the signatures to a marriage contract between the Count and Rosina. Bartolo barges in, but is too late. The befuddled Bartolo (who was the one who had removed the ladder) is pacified by being allowed to retain Rosina's dowry.
Selected recordingsYear Cast
(Rosina, Almaviva, Figaro) Conductor
Opera House and Orchestra Label 1958 Maria Callas,
Tito GobbiAlceo Galliera,
Philharmonia Orchestraand Chorus Audio CD: EMI Classics1958 Roberta Peters,
Robert MerrillErich Leinsdorf,
Metropolitan OperaOrchestra and Chorus Audio CD: RCA
ASIN: B000003G4F 1972 Teresa Berganza,
Hermann PreyClaudio Abbado,
London Symphony Orchestraand Chorus Audio CD: Deutsche Grammophon1975 Beverly Sills,
Sherrill MilnesJames Levine,
London Symphony Orchestra,
John Alldis Choir Audio CD: EMI Classics
ASIN: 7243 5 85523 2 4 1987 Luciana Serra,
Bruno Pola Bruno Campanella,
Teatro Regio di TorinoOrchestra and Chorus Audio CD: Nuova Era 1993 Kathleen Battle,
Plácido DomingoClaudio Abbado,
Chamber Orchestra of Europeand Chorus Audio CD: Deutsche Grammophon
In popular culture
The overture and "Largo al factotum" have been famously parodied in animated cartoons starring Woody Woodpecker (The Barber of Seville), Bugs Bunny (Rabbit of Seville and Long-Haired Hare), Porky Pig and Daffy Duck (You Ought to Be in Pictures), Tom and Jerry (The Cat Above and the Mouse Below), and The Simpsons ("The Homer of Seville"), as well as in Tex Avery's Magical Maestro and Warner Bros' One Froggy Evening.
"Largo al factotum" is sung by a moustached baritone, a stop-motion animated clay figure, in the opening credits of the 1991 film Oscar, and by an animated bird in the opening credits of the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire.
The plot is taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version, with updates, clarifications, and modifications to its often out-of-date language.
External linksCategories: Operas by Gioachino Rossini | Opera buffa | Italian-language operas | 1816 operas | Operas
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