Rosina and the Count are in love. Rosina’s guardian Bartolo plans to marry her. Figaro sets out to help the lovers. Love conquers all, although not without complications.
Count Almaviva, disguised as the poor student Lindoro, is in love with Rosina who lives with her guardian Bartolo. He’s an old grumpy man who intends to marry Rosina once she is of age. The Count, with the help of the barber Figaro, creatively manages to get into Bartolo's house to see Rosina. He comes disguised as both a drunken soldier and as Rosina’s substitute music teacher. The story unfolds with twists and turns but ends happily with the Count and Rosina marrying each other.
"The Barber of Seville"
Opera in 2 acts
Sung in Italian
About 2 hours 50 min + interval
Seville in the 18th century
Dawn, outside Bartolo's house
Count Alamaviva, disguised as the poor student Lindoro, and a band of musicians are serenading Rosina outside her window at Bartolo’s house. Bartolo, Rosina’s guardian, wants to marry her for her dowry. The Count is in love with Rosina but wants to make sure she’s not interested in his money. He pays the musicians and they leave. The Count hears someone approaching and hides. It’s the barber Figaro making himself heard as the know-it-all barber of the town. The Count recognises Figaro and comes out of hiding. He explains that he’s in love with Rosina. The Count is in luck since Figaro frequently works for Bartolo. The two plotting men hide when Bartolo exits the house. Bartolo tells his servant to lock the door and he relishes on the idea of marrying Rosina. When Bartolo has left, Figaro suggests that the Count should disguise himself as a drunken soldier who will be billeted there. The Count appreciates Figaro’s creative thinking and promises that Figaro will be paid.
A room at Bartolo’s house
Rosina thinks of her suitor and decides to write him a letter. She is determined that they shall be together, even though her guardian Bartolo stands in her way. She has sent for Figaro who arrives, and just as he is about to tell Rosina of her suitor’s true identity Bartolo suddenly appears. Figaro hides and listens to Bartolo angrily telling Rosina that he is looking for Figaro who has given his servants sneezing powder. Rosina lies and says that she hasn’t seen him. She leaves.
Bartolo enters with Don Basilio, Rosina’s music teacher. Bartolo is suspicious of the Count’s interest in Rosina. Basilio advises Bartolo to create false rumours about the Count. Figaro comes out of hiding and tells Rosina what he’s just heard. He encourages her to write “Lindoro” a letter which she in fact already has written. Figaro leaves and soon Bartolo enters. He is very suspicious of Rosina’s intentions questioning her to find out the truth. She manages to get away but Bartolo after comes after her.
Count Almaviva comes in disguised as a drunken soldier. Bartolo explains that he’s exempted from the requirement of housing soldiers. The Count pretends to be too drunk to understand. As Bartolo tries to find the paper that proves he’s exempted, the Count whispers to Rosina that he is in fact Lindoro. He passes a love letter to her. Bartolo is demanding to see the piece of paper. Rosina manages to trick him, handing over a laundry list instead. Berta and Basilio enter. Rosina pretends to be weeping. Everyone calls for help when the Count threatens Bartolo. Figaro shows up saying that a crowd is gathering outside and that the police are on their way. The commander arrives to arrest the Count at Bartolo’s order. The Count whispers his true identity to the commander and he instantly backs off. The confusion is complete.
A music room at Bartolo’s house
The Count has once again disguised himself, now as the priest and music teacher Don Alonso, a substitute teacher for Don Basilio who has fallen ill. Don Alonso explains to Bartolo that he has found Rosina’s letter. Bartolo lets “Don Alonso” know of his plan to discredit “Lindoro” who he believes is one of the Count’s servants. When Rosina sees the new teacher, she instantly understands that it is “Lindoro”. Rosina sings an aria, secretly flirting with “Lindoro” and cursing Bartolo. Bartolo doesn’t care much for Rosina’s singing. He’s more interested to sing himself. He tries to imitate a castrato and his awful falsetto rings loud in the room. Figaro interrupts and says that he’s come to shave Bartolo. Bartolo doesn’t want to be shaved but finally gives in because Figaro pretends to be insulted. Figaro’s plan is to steal Bartolo’s keys to be able to open the balcony shutters. He gets his chance when Bartolo hands over his keys so that Figaro can fetch the shaving basin. A loud noise is heard and Bartolo runs off to see what has happened. This gives “Lindoro” and Rosina time to exchange a few words of love. Figaro returns and explains that it was so dark that he accidently crashed into Bartolo’s china. At the same time Figaro manages to hand over the balony key to the Count.
Figaro is getting ready to shave Bartolo, when Basilio appears. The Count quickly gives him a purse with money telling him to leave. Figaro and the Count diagnose Basilio with scarlet fever and Rosina joins in to tell him that he need to go straight to bed. Basilio leaves and Figaro starts shaving Bartolo. The two lovers plan to run off at midnight. Bartolo tries to listen in on the conversation but Figaro distracts him. Finally, Bartolo realises that Don Alonso is an imposter. In a rage he sends them all away.
Dr Bartolo’s house in the evening
Basilio tells Bartolo that “Don Alonso” must be the Count. Bartolo sends Basilio away to fetch a notary to be able to marry Rosna as soon as possible. He tells Rosina that Lindoro is in love with another woman an is showing interest to trick her into marrying the count. Rosina is distraught and reveals the plans escape with “Lindoro”. Bartolo promises that he will stop their wedding plans.
It’s close to midnight and a storm is raging. Fiagro and the count enter Bartolo’s house from the balcony. The Count is met by an angry Rosina accusing him of betraying her. He reveals is true identity, that Lindoro in fact is the Count. Rosina and the Count express their love for each other. Basilio enters with the notary. Figaro asks the notary to marry his niece to the count. The count pays Basilio to keep his mouth shut. The marriage contract is signed. Soon after, Bartolo arrives with a police officer. The Count manages to avoid to be arrested once again, revealing his true identity. Bartolo is calmed when he finds out that he can retain Rosina’s dowry. They all sing about the triumph of love.
Rosina – Soprano/Mezzo-soprano/Contralto (lyric)
A rich pupil in Bartolo's house
Count Almaviva – Tenor (leggiero)
In love with Rosina, disguised as the poor student “Lindoro”, a drunken soldier and the priest and music teacher Don Alonso
Bartolo – Bass (lyric)
Doctor, Rosina’s guardian
Figaro – Baritone (lyric)
The barber of Seville, a man of many trades
Basilio – Bass (buffo)
Rosina’s music teacher, conspiring with Bartolo
Berta – Mezzo-soprano (lyric)
Old governess at Bartolo’s house
Fiorello – Bass
Ambrogio – Bass
Police officer - Bass
Place of birth: Pesaro, Italy
place of death: Paris, France
Gioachino Rossini was an Italian composer known for shaping the style of Bel canto together with Bellini and Donizetti. He was born in Pesaro in a musical family and started music school in Bologna at the age of 12. His father was a trumpeter and his mother was a singer. During his career he wrote 39 operas, sacred music, chamber music, piano pieces and songs.
Rossini married the singer Isabella Colbran in 1822. It was a difficult marriage. Rossini wrote many roles for her, but her voice gradually declined and she was forced to retire. It put a strain on their relationship. They lived separately from 1830 when Rossini met Olympe Pélissier who was to become his future wife. In 1835 Rossini and Colbran officially divorced and 10 years later he married Pélissier who was his wife until his death. Rossini died in Paris after an unsuccessful operation to treat colorectal cancer at the age of 76.
Rossini was a very productive composer, writing on an average 2 operas per year for 19 years. However, for the last 40 years of his life he didn’t compose a single opera. It’s unknown why he stopped, but perhaps his declining health or financial security thanks to earlier successes gives us a clue. His most popular opera is Il barbiere di Siviglia, one of his many comic operas.
"Give me a laundry-list and I'll set it to music."
He was a celebrity during his lifetime. He suffered from insomnia. He met with Beethoven in 1822.
Most prominent operas
Cesare Sterbini was an Italian librettist, poet and writer. He was fluent in Latin, Greek, French and German. His most successful libretto is Il barbiere di Siviglia but he also wrote the libretto for Rossini’s opera Torvaldo e Dorliska, as well as a handful of librettos for other composers.
2d1, 2d1, 2, 2 – 2, 2, 0, 0
timp, perc, sistrum, piano, harp, guitar, strings
The Barber of Seville is a classic opera buffa (comic) in the style of bel canto, perhaps the most famous opera buffa of all time. Rossini decided to put music to the first part of the trilogy about Figaro written by the playwright Beaumarchais. 30 years earlier Mozart wrote The Marriage of Figaro based on the second part of the three plays. It is believed that the opera was written in under three weeks. The premiere took place at Teatro Argentina in Rome in 1816 and was a complete disaster with accidents on stage and members of the audience booing.
Today it is one of the top 10 most performed operas worldwide.
Aria - Ecco ridente in cielo (The Count)
Aria - Largo al factotum (Figaro)
Aria - Se il mio nome saper (The Count)
Aria - Una voce poco fa (Rosina)
Aria - La calunnia è un venticello (Bartolo)
Duet - Dunque io son (Figaro, Rosina)
Quartet - Mi par d’esser con la testa (Rosina, Basilio, Count, Figaro)
Duet - Pace e gioia sia con voi (Count, Bartolo)
Duet - Contro un cor che accende amore (Rosina, Count)
Quintet - Don Basilio! (Rosina, Count, Figaro, Bartolo, Basilio)
Aria - Cessa di più resistere (The count)