Name: Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville)
Composer: Gioachino Rossini
First performed: 20 February 1816 at the Teatro Argentina, Rome
Famous characters: Figaro, the barber of the title, Almaviva, the count, and Rosina, his true love.
Greek American soprano Maria Callas famously played the part of Rosina.
Music you might recognise: Figaro’s aria, Largo al factotum.
In one sentence: Disguises, deception and true love – Figaro employs all his wiles to outwit the ageing doctor and help the Count marry the woman he loves.
One of the world’s most popular comic operas, or opera buffa, Il barbiere di Siviglia is performed in two acts. A Spanish nobleman, Count Almaviva, is in love with the beautiful – and rich – Rosina. However, she is the ward of Doctor Bartolo, who wishes to marry the girl himself in order to get his hands on her money.
Dressed as a poor student named Lindoro, the Count serenades Rosina and she falls in love with him. But Bartolo strictly controls Rosina’s behaviour and so the two lovers can’t meet. Almaviva turns to the wily Figaro. The barber suggests that Almaviva disguise himself in order to gain access to Bartolo’s house.
The first deception, a drunken soldier, isn’t very successful, but the lovelorn Count does manage to pass a note to Rosina. Almaviva’s second disguise is as a music teacher; he claims Rosina’s usual teacher, Don Basilio, is ill and so he, ‘Don Alonso’, will be taking his place. This ruse proves more successful and the two lovers snatch a moment together, declaring their feelings. They make plans to elope that evening. However, Bartolo realises he has been tricked and decides to marry Rosina before she can escape. He sends for a notary.
Almaviva and Figaro climb into Rosina’s room and the Count reveals his true identity to the girl. Basilio returns with the notary, but is bribed and bullied into witnessing Rosina’s marriage to Almaviva instead. Bartolo arrives too late; however, he is satisfied when Almaviva tells him that he can keep Rosina’s inheritance.
DuPage Opera Theatre presents the Barber of Seville (Cebula via Wikimedia Commons.