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Barber of Seville, ACT 1

Outside of Dr. Bartolo's house, a group of musicians, including the wealthy (and
disguised) Count Almaviva, serenade Rosina, a beautiful young maiden kept hidden
away inside.
When Rosina, the ward of Dr. Bartolo, offers no answer to the musicians' serenade,
Almaviva pays the musicians and sends them away. Figaro, once employed by
Almaviva, arrives singing a song about being the city's factotum. When Figaro comes
across Almaviva, Almaviva asks Figaro for help winning over Rosina.
Dr. Bartolo leaves the house with plans to marry Rosina himself. Almaviva serenades Rosina
once more, telling her his name is Lindoro and that love is all he has to offer. Finally, Figaro
suggests that Almaviva disguise himself as a poor drunken soldier ordered to stay, or billeted,
with Dr. Bartolo. Almaviva is so delighted with the plan, he pays Figaro generously.
Inside Dr. Bartolo's house, Rosina clearly smitten with Lindoro's song, sings a lovely song ("Una
voce poco fa" - Watch on YouTube) about the voice she has just heard. She writes a letter to
Lindoro, while secretly planning a way to escape from Dr. Bartolo. Moments later, she is joined
by Figaro, but the two quickly leave at the sound of footsteps.
Dr. Bartolo arrives with Don Basilio, a music tutor. Basilio tells Dr. Bartolo that Almaviva
competes with him to win the hand of Rosina, and that Bartolo must slander Almaviva's name.
Figaro overhears that Dr. Bartolo plans to marry Rosina the following day, and persuades her to
give him the letter she has written to Lindoro so that he can deliver it.
Alone with Dr. Bartolo, Rosina is questioned and reminded that Dr. Bartolo is unable to be
tricked. Midway through his interrogation, they are interrupted at the sound of vigorous
knocking on the door. Berta, Dr. Bartolo's maid, answers the door to find Almaviva as the
drunken soldier. She brings him up to Dr. Bartolo. As the two men argue, Almaviva manages to
pass a letter along to Rosina, whispering to her that he is Lindoro. Dr. Bartolo sees this and
demands Rosina hand him the letter. She complies, but gives him her laundry list instead. Figaro
rushes into the room, warning them that their incessant arguing has attracted a crowd, and that
authorities are on their way to settle the dispute. Dr. Bartolo, Berta, and Basilio take pleasure in
watching the authorities take the disguised Almaviva away from the house. Before he is escorted
to jail, they are quickly amazed when he is released without any fuss. Almaviva only had to
whisper his identity to them before they complied with letting him go.
Barber of Seville, ACT 2
Now disguised as the substitute music teacher of Don Basilio, who has been very ill of late,
Almaviva arrives to tutor Rosina. Dr. Bartolo is hesitant at first to let him in, but after Almaviva

shows him Rosina's letter to Lindoro, Dr. Bartolo allows him to enter. Almaviva tells Dr. Bartolo
that he plans to discredit Lindoro, as he thinks he is a servant to and doing the bidding for Count
Almaviva. When Almaviva enters the room, Rosina instantly recognizes him as her suitor and
the two begin their lesson. Figaro arrives to give Dr. Bartolo his scheduled shaving and takes him
to another room, stealing a key to the balcony along the way, leaving the young lovers alone.
Don Basilio shows up looking much better, but is quickly turned away when Almaviva bribes
him to leave. Almaviva and Rosina discuss their plans to elope, but are overheard by Dr. Bartolo.
He immediately kicks Figaro and Almaviva out of the house and sends Rosina to her room. Dr.
Bartolo, then, calls for Basilio. Meanwhile, poor Berta can barely keep her mind straight from all
the confusion. Dr. Bartolo convinces Rosina that Lindoro is just a henchman of Count Almaviva.
Later that evening after a large thunderstorm, Almaviva dressed as his true self arrives with
Figaro. The two men climb up to the balcony and unlock Rosina's door. As they begin to abduct
Rosina, she initially protests. After Almaviva explains that he has been in disguise as Lindoro the
whole time, she quickly gives in and falls into his arms. As they begin to make their way from
the house, Basilio arrives with a notary intending to marry Rosina and Dr. Bartolo. After another
bribe, Basilio allows the notary to marry Almaviva and Rosina instead. Once the marriage is
officiated, Dr. Bartolo arrives. Almaviva makes a deal with Dr. Bartolo that allows Dr. Bartolo to
keep the dowry, and Rosina and Almaviva remain together without any objections.

Act I
Scene 1. Dawn, outside Dr. Bartolos house near Sevilla.
Young Count Almaviva is in love with Rosina, ward of the cantankerous Dr. Bartolo. With the
help of some local musicians, he serenades her outside her balcony window (Ecco ridente), but
she does not appear. Despairing, he dismisses the band. Just as they disperse, he hears someone
approaching and hides. It is Figaro, barber and factotum extraordinaire, who will take on any job
as long as he is well paid (Largo al factotum). Having recognized Figaro, Almaviva emerges
from hiding and lays out his problem. The Count is in luck, for Figaro is frequently employed in
Bartolos house as barber, wigmaker, surgeon, pharmacist, herbalist, veterinarianin short, as
jack-of-all-trades. They hide as Bartolo comes out of the house, instructing his servants to keep
the door locked and chuckling to himself about his plan to marry Rosina. When he leaves, Figaro
urges the Count to serenade Rosina again, this time in the guise of an impoverished student who
calls himself Lindoro. Rosina responds to the serenade, but she is soon pulled away from the
window by a servant. Figaro suggests that the Count can get into the house disguised as a
drunken soldier who will be billeted there. Marveling at Figaros creativity, the Count agrees,
promising to bring a purse of money to him at his shop. The scene ends as the Count anticipates
the joy of loveand Figaro the joy of money. (This is the point in the opera where difficulty
changing the elaborate scenery led 19th-century opera companies to create a separate act for
the following scene. Modern performances use Rossinis two-act structure.)

Scene 2. Later the same morning, in the music room of Bartolos house.
Rosina recalls the voice of her suitor (Una voce poco fa) and writes him a letter, determined to
win him despite the plans of her guardian. She has sent for Figaro; just as he is about to tell her
about Lindoros identity, Bartolo arrives and Figaro hides. Bartolo is angrily looking for
Figaro, who apparently gave the servants sneezing fits with one of his powders. Rosina pretends
not to have seen him. She leaves the room, cursing Bartolo, who now also blames Figaro for
turning Rosina against him.
Don Basilio, Rosinas music teacher, arrives. Bartolo will need his help in getting Rosina to
marry him by the next day. He already knows that Count Almaviva is Rosinas secret lover
(although she still does not know his name), and when Basilio tells him that Almaviva is in town,
Bartolo fears the worst. Basilio suggests slandering the Count (La calunnia un venticello),
but Bartolo does not want to wait for that to work; instead, the two go to Bartolos study to draw
up the marriage contract. Figaro then comes out of hiding, having heard everything, and relays
the story to Rosina. He then tells her about his cousin Lindoro, who is in love with her. Rosina
pretends to be surprised, but Figaro knows better. She is eager to see her lover, and Figaro
suggests that she write him a letter. Rosina feigns bashfulness, then pulls from her bosom the
letter she has already written. As soon as Figaro leaves, Bartolo returns and questions Rosina
about a spot of ink on her finger, a missing piece of letter paper, and an obviously used pen on
the writing desk. He dismisses her false explanations, threatening to lock her in her room as he
pompously declaims that she cannot fool him (A un dottor della mia sorte). Rosina manages to
slip away, with Bartolo in pursuit.
Bartolos servant, Berta, enters grumbling about Rosinas behaviour. She is interrupted by a
knock at the door. It is the Count, disguised as a drunken soldier, shouting and staggering into the
room. Bartolo comes in to see what the rumpus is about. The Count drunkenly addresses him by
a number of insulting variations on Bartolo, then surreptitiously looks around for Rosina, who
now enters. The Count whispers to her that he is Lindoro. He tries to follow her out to his
quarters, but Bartolo claims to be exempt from laws requiring him to house soldiers. The
Count challenges him to a duel. Bartolo demands to see a letter the Count has slipped to Rosina,
but she hands him a laundry list instead. Berta and Basilio enter as Rosina and the Count triumph
over Bartolo. When Rosina feigns a fit of weeping, the Count again threatens Bartolo, and
everyone calls for help. Figaro answers the call, warning them that a crowd is gathering outside.
As the Count and Bartolo renew their altercation, the police arrive, intending to arrest the Count.
He reveals his true identity to the police captain, who releases him. Confusion ensues as
everyone simultaneously proclaims their view of the situation.

Act II
Scene 1. Bartolos music room, later the same day.

The Count arrives, this time disguised as Don Alonso, a music master sent to substitute for
Basilio, who is supposedly ill (Pace e gioia). Don Alonso tells Bartolo that he happens to be
lodging at the same inn as the Count. As proof, he produces Rosinas letter, which he proposes to
show her, claiming that he found it in the hands of another woman. Bartolo is thrilled with the
idea. He takes the letter and leads Rosina in. She recognizes Lindoro immediately. The couple
sit at the harpsichord, and Rosina sings an aria (Contro un cor), working into the song both an
appeal to her lover and insults to the unknowing Bartolo. Bartolo does not care for the aria and
begins to sing his own song, dedicated to Rosina, in the style of a famed castrato. His
dreadful falsetto performance is interrupted by Figaro, who states that he has come to shave
Bartolo. Bartolo does not want to be shaved, but Figaro pretends that he is insulted, and Bartolo
gives in. Figaro has a plan, and he needs one of Bartolos keys to open the balcony shutters.
Bartolo gives Figaro the keys so that he can fetch the shaving basin. Bartolo whispers to Don
Alonso that he suspects Figaro of complicity with the Count. A loud crash is heard, causing
Bartolo to run off to see what has happened. Rosina and Lindoro exchange quick promises of
love. Bartolo and Figaro return, as Figaro explains that the room was so dark that he crashed into
and broke all of Bartolos china; he secretly hands the balcony key to the Count.
As Bartolo settles in to be shaved, Basilio unexpectedly arrives. Basilio has no idea why his
arrival has occasioned confusion and is flabbergasted when the Count and Figaro diagnose him
with scarlet fever. The Count slips him money, supposedly to buy medicine, and urges him to
take to his bed (Buona sera, mio signore). Basilio, not inclined to ask questions about the
windfall, at last leaves.
Figaro begins to shave Bartolo; meanwhile, Lindoro arranges to elope with Rosina at
midnight. When Bartolo tries to look at them, Figaro distracts him by feigning a pain in his eye.
But Bartolo manages to figure out at last that Don Alonso is an imposter and flies into a rage
as the others attempt to calm him.
Scene 2. Dr. Bartolos house, later the same evening.
Bartolo returns with Basilio, who confirms that Don Alonso must be the Count. Bartolo sends
Basilio to get a notary. Calling for Rosina, he shows her the letter she had written to Lindoro
and tells her that Lindoro loves another woman and is plotting with Figaro to acquire her for
Count Almaviva. Rosina, crushed, reveals the elopement plans to Bartolo, who vows to stop the
wedding.
As a violent storm rages, Figaro and the Count, who is still in character as Lindoro, climb in
through the window to keep the midnight appointment with Rosina. She repels Lindoro,
accusing him of betraying her love and trying to sell her to Count Almaviva. Lindoro,
delighted, reveals himself to be none other than the Count. As the lovers express their joy, Figaro
congratulates himself on a job well done, but danger still lurks. Looking out the window, Figaro

sees two people at the front door and raises the alarm. This gets the lovers attention, but as the
three try to sneak quietly out the balcony window (Zitti, zitti, piano, piano), they discover that
the ladder has been removed. They hide as Basilio enters with the notary, calling for Bartolo.
Figaro boldly steps forward and tells the notary to perform the wedding ceremony for Count
Almaviva and Figaros niece. The Count silences Basilios protests by paying him off. The
lovers sign the contract, with Figaro and Basilio as witnesses. Their happiness is interrupted by
the arrival of Bartolo with a police officer, but the Count once again avoids arrest by revealing
his identitythis time to everyone. Bartolo at last bows to the inevitable as everyone celebrates
the triumph of love.
EXPLAINED
The Barber of Seville is Rossinis most popular opera. Its effervescent overture (written originally for another
work!) presents a perfect platform for the amusing plot in which the barber, Figaro, stage-manages a
romance between Count Almaviva and Rosina, and puts to flight the old suitor, Dr Bartolo. Largo al
Factotum is one of the most popular arias in opera nearly 200 years after its first performance it is still
one of the great show-stoppers. But why was the opera received with boos and catcalls at its first
performance in 1816, and why did Rossini return to the plot and environment presented so sublimely by
Mozart? Opera writer Thomson Smillie and actor David Timson present the background in their informative
but entertaining manner. The word opera is Latin and means the works; it represents a synthesis of all the
other arts: drama, vocal and orchestral music, dance, light and design. Consequently, it delivers an
emotional impact which none of the others can match. The only one of the arts whose origins can be
precisely dated, it was invented in Italy in 1597 as part of the Renaissance the rebirth of interest in
classical values. As an art form it is truly international, crossing all linguistic and cultural barriers, and it is
probably the only one whose audience continues to expand, not in spite of, but because of developments in
entertainment technology.
From its early origins in Italy opera spread across Europe, establishing individual and distinctive schools in a
number of countries. France had an early and long-standing love affair with it hence the term grand opra,
referring to the massive five-act creations that graced the Paris Opra in the nineteenth century. Germany
had an excellent school from as early as Mozarts time, and opera perhaps reached its highest achievement
with the mighty music dramas of Richard Wagner. Russia, Great Britain, and the Americas have also made
their contributions.
But in the popular imagination opera remains an Italian concept and no wonder. From its earliest years
Italians dominated the art: Cavalli and Monteverdi were among the first to establish its forms; there was a
golden age, called the bel canto, at the beginning of the nineteenth century when Bellini, Donizetti, and
Rossini ruled supreme; Giuseppe Verdi was probably the most revered artist in history; and, for many,
Puccini represents, in every sense, the last word in this beloved genre.
Although the twentieth century has not been as lavishly endowed with opera composers, it can still boast a
few, including Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, and Benjamin Britten and, maybe most significantly in the
long run, those errant step-children of opera, the Broadway musical and the Lloyd Webber spectacular.
For those in the know which fortunately can include everyone the very name of Rossini can bring a smile
of pleasure to the lips. There is something infinitely satisfying about a composer who had a spectacularly
successful career writing brilliant comedies and stirring tragedies, and who retired at the age of forty to a life
of luxury, entertaining his friends and inventing such artery-clogging master- pieces as tournedos Rossini a
filet mignon with pate de foie gras melted over

it. There is something admirable about a composer who, late for a deadline, sim- ply lifted the overture from
one of his tragedies and pasted it to the front of his most successful comedy (this present work). And
something that appeals to us all is a composer who wrote arias while seated up in bed surrounded by overstuffed pillows. One day a tenor aria fell off the bed, and he was too lazy to get out of bed to fetch it so he
wrote another.
But, of course, that was later on. The early life of such an artist would be bound to be difficult, even if
Rossini had to conspire at times to make it so. He chose as the subject of his spring 1816 offering, the
play Le Barbier de Seville, a work which, in its pre-French Revolutionary time, was regarded as subversive.
Furthermore several some say as many as 36 operatic versions of the play already existed, including one
by a then-popular composer, Paisiello, whose name is now forgotten.
So Rossini was asking for trouble and he got it. The first night at the Teatro Argentina, (the theatre is still
there, just across from the bus terminal in downtown Rome), was a famous fiasco. The performance was
virtually drowned out by the cat-calls and whistles of a vociferous Roman mob. Heart-broken but undaunted,
Rossini returned to the podium for the next performance, which went well and the opera has never been
out of the repertory since. It is likely that it has been performed somewhere every night of its life since the
spring of 1816.
The characters the witless aristocrat, the scheming servant, the guileful maiden and the bullying old
guardian are the stock characters of commedia dell arte but are elevated by Rossinis brilliantly witty and
tuneful score to high and hilarious art.
Count Almaviva wants to wed the lovely Rosina, who is fiercely protected by her guardian Doctor Bartolo.
Figaro is barber, and factotum, to the household and he will help bring the lovers together. An oily clergyman
and a plain but lascivious housekeeper complete the small cast. The result is one of the most completely
enjoyable works ever created for the theatre of any nation.
But we should not let the humour and the delight of the piece cloud us either to its skill or to the skills
needed to perform it. Rossini brilliantly dresses each of the characters in his or her own musical clothing: the
mercurial Figaro, the blustering Bartolo, the tender but knowing Rosina and so on. In addition he departs
from the um chum-chum accompaniments of the day to provide some scintillating orchestral work, including
one or two outings for the eponymous and exhilarating Rossini crescendo.
And, perhaps most important, if you wanted to go on working in the wonderful world of Italian Opera, he
provided dazzling vocal opportunities for the vain primi of both sexes, those gorgeous exponents of the arts
of bel canto who were the combination classical superstars, rock stars and show biz celebrities of the day.
He gave them superb opportunities to display their wonderful vocal techniques; runs, trills, breathtaking
ensembles, exhilarating patter songs and, where appropriate lovely melodies.
His roles continue to attract the very best singers of every age; or at least those who have the youth,
flexibility of voice and, preferably, physical charm to carry off such a demanding combination of musicianship
and stage craft.