Libreto Cesare Sterbini for motives of the same comedy by P'ur Auguste Caron de Beaumarchais
The Barber of Seville, an opera buffa * based on a French play, is one of those about which Stendhal said that one should close his eyes to all the absurdities and “only die from laughter and pleasure.” Gioacchino Rossini wrote the opera The Barber of Seville in an astonishingly short time — twenty days in advance (according to other sources, the opera was written for about two weeks). Rossini did not work on any opera as enthusiastically as on this work. By his own admission, he “composed music everywhere: when he walked, when he ate, and when he stood, he lay, in a word, constantly.” For the first time, the opera was staged on the stage of the Roman theater Argentina on February 20, 1816. However, The Barber of Seville is not the original name of this opera, although it is based on the play of the same name by Pierre Auguste Caron de Beaumarchais.
At first, Rossini’s opera was called Almaviva, or Vain Precaution. The reason for renaming the opera was that the “Barber of Seville” was put to the music of Giovanni Paisiello thirty years ago. But despite the renaming, the adherents of the old master made a noise at the premiere of Rossini’s opera, and she was booed. They said that Rossini secretly left the theater. A number of accidents that occurred during the play helped the detractors: the actor, who played the role of Basilio, fell and was injured; Almaviva’s guitar string burst during a serenade; a cat appeared on stage at the most inopportune moment. The next evening, contrary to expectations, the hall was crowded. The audience came to have fun, perhaps in the hope that the cascade of accidents would happen again. But the opera made a completely different impression. She conquered everyone. The rapturous audience applauded every aria! “My Barber is becoming more and more successful every day,” Rossini wrote, “and even to the most inveterate opponents of the new school he managed to sneak up so much that they against their will begin to love this clever guy more and more.” The Barber of Seville marked the beginning of Rossini’s European glory.
The first production in Russia took place in 1821 in Odessa, the performance was in Italian. And in 1822, the “Barber of Seville” was applauded in St. Petersburg. By the way, the final scene in the finale of the opera – a sextet with the chorus “Di si felice innesto” (“Concerns and excitements dissipated like smoke”) – is based on the theme of the Russian folk song “Ah, what a garden to fence”. Her motives, of course, changed, the rhythm became different, but you can recognize the refrain. Verdi wrote: “… I still think that the Barber of Seville, by its abundance of ideas, by the brightness of its comic sound and the truth of recitation, is the most beautiful of all existing opera buffs.” * Opera buffa (opera buffa) – Italian version of the comic opera. It arose in the 18th century on the basis of interludes and a folk song tradition (as opposed to opera-series). This genre is characterized by small scales, several characters, funny buffoonery, action mobility, a parody, bright, lively genre melody, clarity of style.
The overture that is being performed today is not original, that is, the one that was in the opera from the very beginning. The score strangely disappeared soon after the first performance of the opera. It is said that Rossini replaced this loss with an old overture that he had written seven years before for the now forgotten opera L’Equivoco stravagante (Strange Case).
Fiorello, the servant of Count Almaviva, leads to the square in front of the house of Dr. Bartolo musicians. Here lives Rosina, in whom Almaviva is in love. With the help of musicians, the count declares her love. This is a light, bright cavatina – “Ecco ridente in cielo” (“Rises in the sky with the smile of Aurora”). But old Dr. Bartolo takes care of Rozin, and the ardent admirer still cannot see her. At this time, the voice of the barber Figaro is heard, telling how everyone needs it and is indispensable. The cavitation sounds “Largo al factotum della citta” (“Road to the city factotum”). The count recognizes Figaro and asks to help him win the heart of Rosina. Dr. Bartolo leaves the house, muttering that today he will finally arrange his marriage to Rosina. This is heard by the count and Figaro. Both conspirators decide to act quickly. Taking advantage of Bartolo’s absence, Almaviva sings to the canzon “Se il mio nome” (“If you want to know my name”), and this time introduces himself as Lindor. Rosina appears on the balcony, but suddenly disappears quickly. The Count easily managed to persuade Figaro to help him, promising a generous reward. They sing the cheerful duet “All’idea di quel metallo” (“One thought is to get the metal”). Figaro’s living mind immediately thinks of what to do: Almaviva can change into a soldier and enter Bartolo’s house, demanding to stand, pretending to be drunk to avert suspicions. The graph likes this idea. He is all in anticipation of his happiness, but Figaro rejoices in his earnings.
Events take place in the house of Dr. Bartolo. Rosina sings her famous coloratura aria “Una voce poco fa” (“More recently someone’s voice”), in which she reveals her feelings for Lindor. Figaro appears. Rosina briefly but cordially talks with him, and then – less cordially – with Dr. Bartolo interrupting them. Don Basilio arrives, Rosina’s music teacher. He tells his old friend Dr. Bartolo that Count Almaviva, the secret beloved of Rosina, has arrived in the city. Don Basilio offers the doctor to get rid of the count by slandering and compromising him. Praise for slander and gossip sounds in Don’s aria Basilio “La calunnia e un venticello” (“Defamation is a little twig”). This is followed by a dialogue between Figaro and Rosina, in which the barber tells the girl that a poor young man named Lindor is in love with her, and that it would be nice of her to write a letter to him. Rosina actually already wrote the letter and gives it to Figaro to give it to Lindor, the duet “Dunque io son” (“Is that me? Ah, that’s lovely”). Bartolo notices that Rosina wrote a letter and bursts out in anger. Rosina is trying to deceive her old guardian, but he understands everything and sings the aria “A un Dottor della mia sorte” (“I am not without reason a doctor sharp-sighted”). He orders Rosina to sit hopelessly in his room. Soon after, a count Almaviva disguised as a soldier comes in and pretends to be drunk and claims to be housed in the doctor’s house, “Ehi di casa … buona gente …” (Hey, a lodging apartment ”). Dr. Bartolo’s protests do not help. Disguised Almaviva threatens, shouts, while he manages to give a sign to Rosina that he is Lindor. One by one the servant Berta, the barber of Figaro and the music teacher Basilio join in this scene. The confusion intensifies. Attracted by noise, a patrol enters the house. They are trying to arrest the alleged soldier, but he shows the officer a piece of paper with his true rank. Everyone is amazed. The first action ends with a brilliant nine-voice chorus, in which each participant admits that the whole situation is completely crazy: “Mi par d’esser colla testa” (“So much noise, screaming, scolding, that you won’t come to your senses soon”).
The Count of Almaviva is in the house of Dr. Bartolo in a new guise, this time – Don Alonso, music teacher. He says that he came to replace the ill Don Basilio and to conduct a music lesson with Rosina. And when Bartolo does not believe him, he shows Rosina’s note, saying that she came to him by chance and can be used to slander Count Almaviva. Bartolo agrees. The lesson begins. Rossini wrote the song “L’Inutile precauzione” for this episode, which was the original subtitle of the opera. Dr. Bartolo does not like this “modern” music, and he sings the old-fashioned sentimental romance “Quando mi sei vicina, amabile Rosina” (“When you sit at times, Rosina, you are with me”). Figaro appears immediately with a shaving basin: he insists on shaving the doctor. While the doctor’s face is in soapy foam, the lovers agree to escape. Don Basilio comes. Of course, he is not sick at all, but in a charming quintet, everyone convinces him that he has scarlet fever, and imperceptibly received a weighty purse from the count, Don Basilio goes home for treatment. Dr. Bartolo struggles to eavesdrop on the conversation between Rosina and don Alonso (Almaviva), and no matter how the barber tries to prevent this, the doctor succeeds. He hears Almaviva telling Rosina about her note, which helped him so much. Dr. Bartolo drives everyone out of the house. A servant Berta appears on the stage, who has every reason to complain in her aria that there is not a moment of rest in this house – “Il vecchiotto cerca moglie” (“The old man decided to marry”).
Orchestral music creates the illusion of rain at the end of a summer day. Tremolo cellos resemble peals of thunder, pizzicato violins – raindrops. First Figaro enters the dark room, and after him Count Almaviva, wrapped in a cloak. They are ready to escape. But first, they need to convince Rosina that their intentions are noble. The count reveals to her his true name. Everyone is ready to run away – the “Zitti, zitti” (“Hush, hush” sounds) sounds. But suddenly it turns out that there are no stairs! Don Bazilio and a notary suddenly appear, whom Bartolo sent for, but the Count of Almaviva bribes them to register his marriage with Rosina. As soon as the hasty marriage ended, Bartolo returned, accompanied by an officer and soldiers. Everything becomes clear here. Figaro leaves: he did everything he could. The ensemble with the choir “Di si felice innesto” sounds (“Concerns and excitements dissipated like smoke”).