The Barber of Seville
Performed in the original Italian with Czech surtitles
The most famous barber of all time, whose cunning and wit were as sharp as a razor! Wonderful comedy, elegant melodies and a clever plot make The Barber of Seville an opera which has attracted audiences of all generations for nearly two centuries. A charming spectacle written by Italian artists in the style of comedie dell’arte.
In 1815 Rossini received a visit from Duke Francesco Sforza-Cesarini, impresario of the famous Roman theatre di Torre Argentina. The composer undertook to write the music to the libretto that the duke had given him and a month later hand over the completed score. It was a requirement that the topic be approved by the censor, which proved to be rather difficult. All the submitted librettos were rejected – until The Barber of Seville. Rossini was not overjoyed by this, as there already existed a Barber of Seville, by the recognised doyen Giovanni Paisiello. Rossini well knew that the old maestro and his opera had numerous supporters, which could make things difficult for the presentation of the new work. He wrote Paisiello a polite letter, in which he humbly explained why he had dared to compose an opera on the same theme. Paisiello replied that he warmly welcomed the idea: he quietly assumed that the opera would be a failure. He was not mistaken. At the premiere in 1816 the opera really did end up as a fiasco. That evening however none of the audience realised that they were booing one of the most famous and popular operas of the future… For Brno audiences the mainly Italian production team produced a charming spectacle in the style of the commedia dell’arte.
Janáček Opera Ensemble and Orchestra of the National Theatre Brno
Premiere on 7th December 2007
It is dawn in Seville. Under Doctor Bartolo’s window a serenade can be heard, which is directed toward Bartolo’s beautiful foster daughter, Rosina. The young man who is singing to her is Count Almaviva. He had recently arrived in Seville and the brief encounter with the beautiful Rosina was enough for him to fall hopelessly in love. However, he wants to be sure to win the heart of his chosen one and therefore pretends to be the poor student Lindoro. Suddenly Figaro, Almaviva’s former servant, appears – he is currently the best barber in the whole of Seville. He also shaves Doctor Bartolo every day, and is therefore able to confide in Almaviva that the person who is being serenaded is strictly protected by the old doctor, who is really after her dowry. Figaro has an excellent idea as to how to get Almaviva into the house – the Count should obtain an accommodation order from his friend, the leader of the city guard, and disguise himself as a soldier! After all, a drunken soldier looking for accommodation should not cause suspicion that amorous tricks were afoot.
In the meantime, in Bartolo’s house Rosina is secretly writing a letter to a suitor who has introduced himself as Lindoro. However, she is surrounded by Bartolo’s guards – the schemer and music teacher Basilio and the sullen housekeeper Berta. Figaro, who likes delivering love-letters, comes to her aid. Basilio comes to see Bartolo with bad news: Count Almaviva is in town, and he has fallen for Rosina!
Almaviva’s entrance to the house is aided by his soldier’s disguise. Figaro’s little game is foiled, however, when Bartolo calls the city guard. So that the Count may escape arrest, he has to give away his identity to the chief of the guards.
Almaviva attempts once more to enter Bartolo’s house, this time disguised as Don Alonso, a pupil of Don Basilio. Basilio has apparently fallen suddenly ill, and he is authorised to represent him at Rosina’s lessons. He gains Bartolo’s trust through Rosina’s letter, which he hands to him. Figaro arrives to shave Bartolo in order to make it possible for Almaviva to speak with Rosina. Unexpectely, Basilio also arrives, but a money bag soon convinces him of his “illness”. Figaro manages to obtain the key to the balcony, and before Almaviva’s disguise is uncovered, the two lovers arrange to elope.
Bartolo decides to marry Rosina immediately. He tells the unhappy girl that Lindoro had deceived her and that he wanted her for Count Almaviva. As proof he shows her the letter that Almaviva had previously handed to him. Rosina agrees to the marriage and Bartolo runs to fetch the notary.
During the stormy night Figaro and Almaviva climb a ladder and into Bartolo’s house. Rosina’s bitterness about Lindoro’s assumed deceipt is quickly mollified – Lindoro is in fact Count Almaviva. Their elopement is ruined by the arrival of Bartolo’s notary. In the meantime Bartolo removes the ladder from the balcony. A backhander is enough for the notary to wed Almaviva instead of Bartolo. There is nothing left for Bartolo than to admit defeat, but he is calmed by Rosina’s dowry, which Almaviva gives up in his favour.