Music composed by Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Cesare Sterbini after Pierre-Augustin Beaumarchais’ Le barbier de Séville and the libretto often attributed to Giuseppe Petrosellini for Giovanni Paisiello’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (1782)
First Performance: 20 February 1816, Teatro Argentina, Rome.
|Bartolo, a doctor in Seville
|Rosina, well-to-do ward of Dr Bartolo
|Figaro, a barber
|Don Basilio, music teacher, hypocrite
|Fiorello, Count Almaviva’s servant
|Ambrogio, Bartolo’s servant
|Berta, Bartolo’s old housekeeper
Setting: Seville, in the 18th century
Scene 1. A small square in Seville before dawn
Disguised as a student, Count Almaviva serenades Rosina. He learns from
Figaro, a former servant, now the city barber and general factotum, that she
is Dr Bartolo’s ward, and that he has access to the house. Rosina contrives
to drop a note for Almaviva, sending her guardian on a wild-goose chase to
pick it up and causing him to resolve to keep her under even closer guard.
The letter asks for information about her unknown suitor’s name, rank and
intentions; and when Bartolo has set off in search of his crony Don Basilio,
the music teacher, to arrange his marriage to Rosina, Almaviva sings another
serenade, telling her that he is a poor student called Lindoro.
Inspired by the Count’s munificence, Figaro declares that he can get him
into the house, disguised as a drunken soldier seeking a billet.
Scene 2. Inside Dr Bartolo’s house
Rosina is determined to marry her unknown suitor, while Bartolo is set on
marrying her himself. He tries to interrogate his servants about what has
been going on in his house, but they can only yawn or sneeze, because they
have been dosed by Figaro. Basilio tells him that Couant Almaviva has been
seen in Seville and advises getting rid of him by slander. They retire to
work on the marriage contract. Figaro, who has overheard their plans, tells
Rosina and urges her to write to his “poor cousin.” The letter is already
written and she gives it to him. Bartolo, suspecting that she has been
writing, confronts her with the evidence. She has an answer to all his
accusations, but he is not convinced and says he will lock her in her room
when he goes out. Almaviva bursts in, disguised as a drunken soldier. In the
confusion he slips Rosina a note, which is seen by Bartolo, but Rosina
smartly substitutes the laundry list. The watch arrive to quell the riot, but
are awed by a document produced by Almaviva.
Inside Bartolo’s house
Bartolo is voicing his suspicions about this soldier when Almaviva appears
again, this time disguised as “Don Alonso,” a supposed pupil of Don Basilio,
who, he says, is indisposed and has sent him to take Rosina’s music lesson.
To allay Bartolo’s suspicions he produces Rosina’s note, pretending it has
fallen into his hands by accident and suggesting that Bartolo tell her it was
given to him by a mistress of the Count, to prove that he is trifling with
her affections. Rosina sings an aria to the Count’s accompaniment and as
Bartolo dozes off, the Count explains his plan for eloping with Rosina later
Figaro appears to shave Bartolo and manages to get hold of the key to the
balcony. Basilio arrives, but is told to go home because he looks so ill,
advice he accepts the more readily because Almaviva slips him a bribe. Figaro
begins to shave Bartolo, while Almaviva and Rosina continue to arrange the
elopement. Bartolo realises what is going on and the Count and Figaro make
Basilio comes back with the unwelcome news that the unknown suitor is
probably Almaviva himself, a conclusion he has reached because of the size of
the bribe. Bartolo sends Basilio to bring the notary to perform the marriage
with Rosina and, producing her letter to the Count, convinces her that her
affections are being trifled with, so she tells him of the planned elopement
and agrees to marry him. He goes to get the law to arrest Figaro and
During the storm Figaro and Almaviva climb a ladder to the balcony, only
to be confronted by an angry Rosina, but the Count calms her fears by
revealing his identity. Figaro urges haste, but the ladder has been taken.
Basilio arrives with the notary and they get him to solemnise Almaviva’s
marriage to Rosina. Bartolo and the law arrive too late.
[Synopsis Source: Opera~Opera]
image_description=Maria Callas (Rosina) and Tito Gobbi (Figaro)
first_audio_name=Gioacchino Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
product_title=Gioacchino Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
product_by=Almaviva: Luigi Alva; Bartolo: Melchiorre Luise; Basilio: Nicola Rossi-Lemeni; Berta: Anna Maria Canali; Figaro: Tito Gobbi; Fiorello: Pier Luigi Latinucci; Rosina: Maria Callas; Notary: Giuseppe Nessi. Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala di Milano. Carlo Maria Giulini, conducting. Live performance, 16 February 1956, Milan.