The Barber of Seville : Work information

Composers
Gioachino (Antonio) Rossini ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Evelino Pido (Conductor)

This work

Work name
The Barber of Seville
Work number
n/a
Key
n/a
Genre
A
Composed
1816-01-01 02:00:00

This recording

Label
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Producer
Alan Peters
Engineer
Dick Lewzey
Recording date
n/a

The Composers

Gioachino (Antonio) Rossini

Rossini’s parents were both musicians, and lived in Bologna, Italy. His father was a horn player and his mother was a singer, and they both taught their son. It is known that Rossini sang in at least one opera when he was a boy. His career as a composer began early in his life, when, at age 18, he wrote a one-act opera which was performed in Venice. He soon began to receive commissions from all over Italy, including Bologna, Ferrara, Venice and Milan. Rossini’s first big success was at La Scala in Milan, with La Pietra del Paragone (1812). He wrote seven operas in 16 months, and all but one of them were comic.

Rossini’s first international success came in 1813 when he was still in his early twenties, when he wrote several operas for Venice. These include L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian in Algiers), one of his most enduring comic operas. He also wrote operas for performance in Milan, but these were not quite so successful. In 1815 Rossini went to Naples and became Musical and Artistic Director of the Teatro San Carlo. While there, he wrote some comic operas for other opera houses, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber Of Seville) (1816). This was a failure at first, but later became very popular and was acclaimed by such composers as Beethoven and Verdi .

In 1817 Rossini also wrote La Cenerentola, but his prestigious post prompted him to write more serious operas, and these are some of the most complex of his works. They include Otello (1816) and Maometto II (1820). It was also around this time, in 1822, that Rossini married the principal soprano at Naples, Isabella Colbran. She was the mistress of the impresario Barbaia, and the marriage quickly became unhappy.

Rossini left Naples and returned to Bologna, and shortly afterwards left for London. He then went to Paris in 1823, and took on the directorship of the Théâtre-Italien, composing for that theatre and the Opéra. It was here that he wrote Guillaume Tell (William Tell). 

At the age of 37, Rossini retired from composing opera. He lived with Olympe Pélissier, and in 1837 left Paris to live in Bologna once again. He became ill and hardly composed at all. His estranged wife Isabella died in 1845, and the next year he married Olympe, with whom he had now lived for 15 years. One notable composition from this time is his Stabat Mater.

Rossini, by now an respected musical figure, was often called upon to give his opinion of new works, and so it was that during this period that he is said to have remarked, "One can't judge Wagner 's opera Lohengrin after a first hearing, and I certainly don't intend hearing it a second time."

In 1855 Rossini returned to Paris much healthier, and began to compose in earnest once again. It was in Paris that he wrote the highly popular Petite Messe Solennelle (1863), scored for piano, harmonium and singers. He died in 1868, a very popular figure and one who had brought a great deal of lyricism and wit into both opera and other forms of music.

Related composers: Meyerbeer, Donizetti

Track listing

  • Overture 6:51 min

Notes

Rossini's masterpiece Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) is generally regarded as the finest of all comic operas. Composed in just three weeks under the title Almaviva, ossia L'inutile precauzione to distinguish it from Paisiello's opera of the same name, Il barbiere di Siviglia was comissioned by the Teatro Argentina to close the Roman carnival season.

Hurried preparations meant the first performance of the opera on 20 February 1816 was a disaster. However, the only item altered was the overture; Rossini simply substituted the overture from his earlier opera Aureliano in Palmira. Popular and critical acclaim soon followed, with Beethoven and Verdi, in particular, voicing their approval.

The excellent libretto by Sterbini was based on Beaumarchais' 1775 play, and provided Rossini with some wonderful characters and dramatic situations. Highlights of the opera include the rapid patter of Bartolo's A un dottor della mia sorte; Basilio's La calunnia, which features the famous Rossini crescendo; and Figaro's popular Largo al factotum.