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The Barber of Seville

The Barber of Seville (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) is a comic opera in two acts by Gioacchino Rossini. Text founded on Beaumarchais’ comedy by Sterbini. Music for this text has been composed by Giovanni Paisiello, Isouard and Gioacchino Rossini. Though the work of Paisiello triumphed for a time over that of Rossini, the latter alone has stood the test of time and is still the main­stay of the operatic repertoire. First produced at Rome in 1816.


Place, Seville.
Time, the seventeenth century.

Act I. Seville. Square before the house of Bartholo. Almaviva serenades Rosina, whom Bartholo desires to marry for her fortune. (“See, the morn appears.”) Figaro approaches singing. (Aria: “I am the factotum of the ladies.”) The count, who knows the merry barber, asks him for assistance in meeting Rosina. (Duet: “The shine of gold falls upon me.”) Figaro advises the count to disguise himself as a soldier and by feigning drunkenness gain entrance to the house. For this suggestion he is richly rewarded. Change of scene: Chamber of Dr. Bartholo. (Rosina’s cavatina: “I ask my timid heart.”) Knowing the count only under the name of Lindoro, she writes to him, and is leaving the room when Bartholo and Basilio enter. Bartholo suspects the count, and Basilio advises that he be put out of the way. (Aria: “Calumny is light as air.”) When the two have gone Rosina and Figaro enter. The latter asks Rosina for a few words for Lindoro, which she has already written. (Duet: “Is it I that you mean ?“) Surprised by Bartholo, she manages to fool him, but he is still suspicious. (Aria: “A doctor, perhaps.”) When the stage is empty, Marcelline tries to pass through the exit, but is met by the count disguised as an intoxicated soldier. She rushes to Bartholo for protection, being in fear of the drunken man: Bartholo endeavours to remove the supposed soldier, but does not succeed. The count manages to see Rosina, whispers that he is Lindoro, gives her a letter, and she hands the watching Bartholo the list of the wash. When Basilio, Figaro and Marcelline disappear, the noise attracts the watch. Bartholo believes that the count has been arrested, but Almaviva mentions his name to the officer and is released. Bartholo and Basilio are as­tounded, and Figaro makes sport of them.

Act II. Almaviva again appears at the house of the doctor, this time disguised as a tutor, and acting as substi­tute for the supposedly ailing Basilio, who gives lessons to Rosina. In order that he may not be alone with Rosina, the doctor has himself shaved by Figaro. (Quintet: “What, Basilio! what do I see?”) When Basilio suddenly appears he is bribed by a full purse from Figaro, to play the part of an invalid. Finally Bartholo detects the trick, drives everybody out of the room, and rushes to a notary to draw up the marriage contract between himself and Rosina. The stage remains empty, while the music describes a thunder storm, then the count and Figaro enter through a window. When Basilio arrives with the notary, he is again bribed. and he and Figaro witness the signatures to a marriage contract between the count and Rosina. The befooled Bartholo is pacified by being allowed to retain Rosina’s dowry.

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Plot taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version. The Barber of Seville is used in a popular analogy of the Barber paradox.