Opera Profile: Rossini’s Ever-Popular ‘Il Barbiere di Siviglia’

By David Salazar

Rossini never composed a more famous opera than “Il Barbiere di Siviglia.” In fact, the work, which world premiered on Feb. 20, 1816 at the Teatro Argentina in Rome, is arguably the world’s most famous opera comedy, full stop.

It’s popularity is proven simply by the fact that the work has never left the repertory since its debut over 200 years ago.

Short Plot Summary

The Count Almaviva is trying to seduce his beloved Rosina, who lives in the home of the overbearing Don Bartolo, who has designs on marrying her himself. He runs into the local barber Figaro and they hatch a plan. Disguised as the poor “Lindoro,” the Count serenades Rosina, but to little success.

Meanwhile, Rosina hatches a plan to send a letter to Lindoro but is almost found out by Bartolo and his conniving friend Don Basilio, who tells Bartolo that they should use gossip to spread bad word of mouth on the count. Bartolo refuses.

Figaro meets up with Rosina and she gives him the letter. Lindoro appears as a drunk soldier at the house and gets into a heated discussion with Bartolo that alerts the police. But the Count shows off his badge and the police ignore the ruckus.

In the second act, the Count returns, this time disguised as a pupil of Basilio. He tells Bartolo that his “master” is sick and that he will take over the lesson with Rosina. During the lesson, he hatches a plan for escape with her but Basilio suddenly arrives and almost damages everything. The Count and Figaro pay off Basilio to go home. That night Bartolo tells Rosina that the Count is trying to use her and when the latter arrives with Figaro to run off with her, she is agitated. The Count reveals his true identity and they reconcile. They get caught by Basilio, but the Count pays him off and they wind up married. Bartolo is defeated and everyone ends happily ever after.

Famous Musical Numbers

Virtually every piece in this opera is a musical gem including Figaro’s “Largo al factotum,” Basilio’s “La calunnia,” Rosina’s “Una voce poco fa,” and the opera’s overture.

Watch and Listen

Check out this production from 1988 starring Cecilia Bartoli.


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