Opera in three acts (four scenes)
Libretto by C. Sterbini
Bartolo, MD, Rosina’s guardian
Rosina, his pupil
Don Basilio, music teacher of Rosina
Fiorello, servant of the count
Servants of Bartolo
Officer, alcade, notary, algvazili, soldiers and musicians.
The action takes place in Seville (Spain).
HISTORY OF CREATION
Rossini wrote the “Seville Barber” in an astonishingly short time – twenty days. At the premiere on February 20, 1816, the opera was unexpectedly booed. But the subsequent performances were accompanied by a noisy success.
“The Barber of Seville” was created on the plot of the comedy of the same name (1773) – the first part of the famous trilogy of the greatest French playwright P. Beaumarchais (1732-1799). Appeared shortly before the French bourgeois revolution, it was directed against the feudal absolutist regime, exposing the aristocracy. In the image of the main character of the comedy – the clever and clever Figaro – the characteristic features of the representative of the third estate are embodied: vital energy, optimism, enterprise. Figaro speaks in comedy as an expression of the views of the advanced layers of society of that time. Not all of his monologues and witty remarks entered the libretto of C. Sterbini (1784-1831). But thanks to the temperamental, sparkling humor of music, Figaro’s image retained the main features of his literary prototype. The images of Bartolo – a mean, quarrelsome old man and Basilio – an intriguer, jester and bribe taker – have changed little. Somewhat relaxed was in the opera the characteristic of the crafty, resolute and bold Rosina. Another appeared at Rossini and Count Almaviva. From an arrogant rake, he turned into a traditional lyrical hero.
The cheerfulness, the sparkling spree of the “Seville Barber” kept behind the opera of Rossini the warm love of the broad masses of listeners.
“The Barber of Seville” captivates inexhaustible wit, melodic generosity and virtuoso brilliance of the vocal parts. This work is characterized by the characteristic features of the Italian opera buff: the rapid dynamics of scenic action, the abundance of comic positions. The heroes of the opera, its plot, full of unexpected turns, seem to be snatched from life itself.
Overture introduces into an atmosphere of amusing adventures. Elegant melodies, temperamental rhythm, rapid upsets are full of fire, boiling vitality.
The beginning of the first act is fanned by the breath of the southern night. The feelings of the enamored Count pour out in the Cavatina “Soon the East will brighten brightly with the dawn”, richly decorated with coloratura. A striking contrast is the famous Cigatina Figaro “Place, Give More, People!”, Sustained in the rhythm of the tarantella. A melodious, slightly sad Almaziva cannon “If you want to know” is imbued with a gentle passion.
The second act opens with a virtuoso Cavatina flirtatious and capricious Rosina “In the midnight silence.” Basilio’s popular aria about libel, at first insinuating, finally supported by the gradual increase in the sonority of the orchestra, acquires a comically menacing character. The duet expressively conveys the craftiness and pretended naivety of Rosina, the insistence and humor of Figaro. The final act is a developed ensemble full of action and contrasts, rich in bright, catchy melodies.
The third act consists of two pictures. The first begins with the comic duet Bartolo and Almaviva, in which the count’s pious and humble speeches are answered by the bewildered, irritable remarks of the guardian. In the next scene (quintet), alarming exclamations and a hurried patter are followed by a gallant melody that emphasizes the amusing courtesy of Figaro, Almaviva and Rosina, who are trying to send Basilio away.
In the orchestral introduction of the second picture, the deaf roars of cellos and double basses, the violent ups of violins, the sparkling passages of flutes, depict a night storm. The enthusiasm of the lovers, their fervent feelings, are embodied in an elegant tercet, the music of which is given a languorous, gentle tinge; only the mocking remarks of Figaro, mimicking Almaviva and Rosina, bring a touch of comedy to the terrette. The opera is completed by a cheerful final ensemble with a choir.
1 According to other sources, the opera was written about two weeks.