15 Mar 2009

ROSSINI: Il Barbiere di Siviglia — La Scala 1956

Il Barbiere di Siviglia [Almaviva, ossia L’inutile precauzione (‘Almaviva, or The Useless Precaution’)]: Commedia in two acts.

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.

Principal Roles:
Count Almaviva Tenor
Bartolo, a doctor in Seville Baritone
Rosina, well-to-do ward of Dr Bartolo Contralto
Figaro, a barber Baritone
Don Basilio, music teacher, hypocrite Bass
Fiorello, Count Almaviva’s servant Bass
Ambrogio, Bartolo’s servant Bass
Berta, Bartolo’s old housekeeper Mezzo-Soprano
Officer Baritone
Notary Silent Role

Setting: Seville, in the 18th century


Act I

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.

Act II

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 that night.

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 their escape.

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 Almaviva.

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]

Click here for the complete libretto.