The Barber of Seville

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The Barber of Seville, or The Useless Precaution (Il barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L'inutile precauzione) is an opera buffa in two acts by Gioachino Rossini with a libretto by Cesare Sterbini. The libretto was based on Pierre Beaumarchais's comedy Le Barbier de Séville (1775), which was originally an opéra comique, or a mixture of spoken play with music. The première (under the title Almaviva, or the Useless Precaution) took place on 20 February 1816, at the Teatro Argentina, Rome. It was one of the earliest Italian operas to be performed in America and premiered at the Park Theater in New York City on 29 November 1825.[1] Rossini’s Barber has proven to be one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy within music, and has been described as the opera buffa of all opere buffe; even after two hundred years, its popularity on the modern opera stage attests to that greatness.[2]

Contents

History

An opera based on the play had previously been composed by Giovanni Paisiello, and another was composed in 1796 by Nicolas Isouard. Though the work of Paisiello triumphed for a time, Rossini's later version alone has stood the test of time and continues to be a mainstay of operatic repertoire.

Rossini's opera follows the first of the plays from the Figaro trilogy, by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais, while Mozart's opera Le nozze di Figaro, composed 30 years earlier in 1786, is based on the second part of the Beaumarchais trilogy. The original Beaumarchais version was first performed in 1775, in Paris at the Comédie-Française at the Tuileries Palace.

Rossini was well known for being remarkably productive, completing an average of two operas per year for 19 years, and in some years writing as many as four. Musicologists believe that, true to form, the music for Il Barbiere di Siviglia was composed in just under three weeks, although some of the themes in the famous overture were actually borrowed from two earlier Rossini operas, Aureliano in Palmira and Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra.

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