Gioachino Rossini

Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville)


Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) at a glance

The composer / Antonio Gioachino Rossini was born in Pesaro in 1792. In 1806 he enrolled at the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna, where, as a student, he composed his first opera. Success came soon: in 1812 his comic opera La pietra del paragone was performed at La Scala in Milan, while in 1813 two works, the serious Tancredi and the
comic Italiana in Algeri, carried his name beyond the borders of the Italian peninsula. In 1814 he assumed the post of director for both of Naples’ most important opera houses, for which he penned some of his most important works. A number of these were composed especially for the singer Isabella Colbran, whom the composer married
in 1822. Among these are Otello (1816), Armida (1817), Mose in Egitto (1818), Ermione (1819), La donna del lago (1819), Maometto ΙΙ (1820)  and Zelmira (1822). In 1822 Rossini travelled to Vienna where he met Beethoven. In 1824 he settled in Paris, where, in 1829, he staged Guillaume Tell, his very last opera. Rossini stopped writing for the stage and spent the last 39 years of his life composing mainly songs for voice and piano as well as sacred music. He died in Paris in 1868. His remains were taken to Florence in 1887. 

The work / Cesare Sterbini’s libretto for Rossini’s two act melodramma buffo Il barbiere di Siviglia is based on the homonymous comedy by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1775) as well as on Giuseppe Petrosellini same name opera by Giovanni Paisiello, first produced in 1782. The plot recounts all the tricks that Count Almaviva
employs in order to marry his beloved Rosina, whom Don Bartolo, her elderly guardian intends to marry himself. Almaviva succeeds with the help of the barber Figaro, who enters Don Bartolo’s  home without restrictions. 

Premieres / Il barbiere di Siviglia was first performed at Rome’s Teatro Argentina on 20 February 1816. There is evidence of a performance of the work on Corfu in 1833. In Athens the opera was produced as a parody in 1837. The Greek National Opera, founded in 1940, added the work to its repertory on 11 March 1942.

Synopsis of the original
Act I / In Seville, Count Almaviva appears in disguise as Lindoro, a poor student, in order to win the heart of the beautiful Rosina. The girl lives with her guardian Don Bartolo, who intends to marry her himself. In order to get closer to Rosina, Almaviva asks for the help of the barber Figaro, formerly in his service. After being promised a good sum of money, Figaro agrees. Don Basilio, the music teacher, informs Don Bartolo that Almaviva is in town and that he is charmed by Rosina. He also tells him that he knows of a sure way to defeat his enemy. According to their plan, Figaro and Almaviva enter Don
Bartolo’s residence. Almaviva pretends to be a drunken soldier, but Don Bartolo argues he has exemption from billeting soldiers. Because of all the noise a crowd has gathered in the street and the civil guard arrives in order to arrest the drunken soldier. When Almaviva secretly reveals his true identity to the captain, he is immediately released to everyone’s –but Figaro’s– surprise.

Act II / Almaviva returns to Don Bartolo’s residence, this time disguised as a music teacher. He has come to give Rosina a singing lesson, replacing Don Basilio, who, he says, is ill at home. Figaro arrives in time for Don Bartolo’s daily shave. Cunningly, Figaro manages to snatch the key to balcony door, so that he and Almaviva can return later and abduct Rosina. Don Basilio arrives unexpectedly and Almaviva bribes him in order to keep quiet. Berta, Don Bartolo’s maid, comments on her master’s desire to marry a girl so much younger than him. Don Basilio finally reveals the truth to Don Bartolo. He, in turn, realises that he must move quickly and find a notary in order to marry Rosina. He shows Rosina the letter she had written to Lindoro and tells her that he got it from Almaviva. A storm passes. Figaro and Almaviva climb on the balcony but when Rosina arrives, they lose time in order to give sufficient explanation for Almaviva’s disguise as Lindoro.
Meanwhile, someone has removed the ladder, so that they cannot escape.
Don Basilio arrives with the notary, but as things turn out he marries Rosina to Almaviva. Don Basilio is bribed for the second time and together with Figaro serve as witnesses.
Don Bartolo and the police arrive too late. Don Bartolo has no alternative but to congratulate the newly weds.