Gioacchino Rossini – Il Barbiere Di Siviglia
Recorded at the RAI studios on 16/04/1968
About the author:
Rossini was born in Pesaro on 29 February, 1792 and died in Passy on 13 November, 1868. Both his parents were musicians, his father a horn player, his mother a singer; he learnt the horn and singing and as a boy sang in at least one opera in Bologna, where the family lived. He studied there and began his operatic career when, at 18, he wrote a one-act comedy for Venice.
Further commissions followed, from Bologna, Ferrara, Venice again and Milan, where La pietra del paragone was a success at La Scala in 1812. This was one of seven operas written in 16 months, all but one of them comic.
This level of activity continued in the ensuing years. His first operas to win international acclaim come from 1813, written for different Venetian theatres: the serious Tancredi and the farcically comic L’italiana in Algeri, the one showing a fusion of lyrical expression and dramatic needs, with its crystalline melodies, arresting harmonic inflections and colourful orchestral writing, the other moving easily between the sentimental, the patriotic, the absurd and the sheer lunatic. Two operas for Milan were less successful. But in 1815 Rossini went to Naples as musical and artistic director of the Teatro San Carlo, which led to a concentration on serious opera. But he was allowed to compose for other theatres, and from this time date two of his supreme comedies, written for Rome, Il barbiere di Siviglia and La Cenerentola. The former, with its elegant melodies, its exhilarating rhythms and its superb ensemble writing, has claims to be considered the greatest of all Italian comic operas, eternally fresh in its wit and its inventiveness. It dates from 1816; initially it was a failure, but it quickly became the most loved of his comic works, admired alike by Beethoven and Verdi. The next year saw La Cenerentola, a charmingly sentimental tale in which the heroine moves from a touching folksy ditty as the scullery maid to brilliant coloratura apt to a royal maiden.
Rossini’s most important operas in the period that followed were for Naples. The third act of his Otello (1816), with its strong unitary structure, marks his maturity as a musical dramatist. The Neapolitan operas, even though much dependant on solo singing of a highly florid kind (to the extent that numbers could be, and have been, interchanged), show an enormous expansion of musical means, with more and longer ensembles and the chorus an active participant; the accompanied recitative is more dramatic and the orchestra is given greater prominence. Rossini also abandoned traditional overtures, probably in order to involve his audiences in the drama from the outset. In Naples the leading soprano was Isabella Colbran, mistress of the impresario, Barbaia. She transferred her allegiance to Rossini, who in 1822 married her; they were not long happy together.
Among the masterpieces from this period are Maometto II (1820) and, written for Venice at the end of his time in Naples, Semiramide (1823). Barbaia gave a Viennese season in 1822; Rossini and his wife returned to Bologna, then in 1823 left for London and Paris where he took on the directorship of the Théâtre-Italien, composing for that theatre and the Opéra. Some of his Paris works are adaptations (Le siège de Corinthe and Moïse et Pharaon); the opéra comique Le Comte Ory is part-new, Guillaume Tell wholly. This last, widely regarded as his chef d’oeuvre, and very long, is a rich tapestry of his most inspired music, with elaborate orchestration, many ensembles, spectacular ballets and processions in the French tradition, opulent orchestral writing and showing a new harmonic boldness.
And then, silence. At 37, he retired from opera composition. He left Paris in 1837 to live in Italy, but suffered prolonged and painful illness there (mainly in Bologna, where he advised at the Liceo Musicale, and in Florence). Isabella died in 1845 and the next year he married Olympe Pélissier, with whom he had lived for 15 years and who tended him through his ill-health. He composed hardly at all during this period (the Stabat mater belongs to his Paris years); but he went back to Paris in 1855, and his health and humour returned, with his urge to compose, and he wrote a quantity of pieces for piano and voices, with wit and refinement that he called Péchés de vieillesse (‘Sins of Old Age’) including the graceful and economical Petite messe solennelle (1863). He died, universally honoured, in 1868.
About the Opera:
This 1815 masterpiece is widely considered the greatest of comic operas. Even when operas of the bel canto period (Rossini’s period of flourishing) were rarely performed, its frequent presence on operatic stages of the world was unabated. The first performance, in Rome in 1816 was a fiasco. The older opera composer Giovanni Paisiello had composed an opera on the same story, also called The Barber of Seville, in 1782. Rossini had misgivings about composing a new opera on the same text, so he first obtained Paisiello’s gracious permission to go ahead, and originally called his new opera Almaviva. This did not prevent Paisiello’s claque from sabotaging the premiere, a feat in which they were aided by under-rehearsal, sloppy production, and stage effects which failed to work properly. Soon afterward, with some changes, the opera was presented again. Without Paisiello’s fans creating an uproar, the performance was a success, and by the third performance it resulted in ovations and quickly went on to sweep the operatic world. (As for Paisiello’s opera, it was soon eclipsed by Rossini’s, but more recently it has regained some appreciation in the operatic world.)
The Barber of Seville is the first of a trilogy of plays by the French dramatist Beaumarchais. These plays, which tended to depict nobility as buffoons dependant on and manipulated by their wily servants, were considered subversive in the late 1700s. (The Marriage of Figaro, the second of the plays, was turned into an opera by Mozart in 1786. It is Rossini’s opera, by the way, not Mozart’s, which has the comic aria “Largo al factotum” containing the call: “Figaro, Figaro, Figaro.”) Figaro is the barber of the title. The plot involves the efforts of the amorous young Count Almaviva to woo and win the lovely Rosina, in the process outwitting her ward, Dr. Bartolo, who fancies her for himself. There are textual difference among production of the opera. The primary decision is whether Rosina’s part should be sung by a mezzo-soprano (as Rossini originally intended) or by a soprano, as it has commonly been done since 1826, apparently with Rossini’s permission. An aria for Bartolo was lost, and has been replaced by one composed by a composer named Romani. And the “Lesson Scene” is also lost, so the soprano gets to choose music by another composer to use in its place. Some of the great popular numbers in the opera are Almaviva’s serenade “Ecco ridente in cielo” and the more passionate “Se il mio nome.” Rosina’s”Una voce poco fa” is probably the most popular of all coloratura arias, while Bartolo gets his own aria, “La Calunnia” (“Calumny”), all about the evil power of slander. Incidentally, the famous overture to the opera, which is probably among the most frequently heard compositions of Rossini’s in the concert hall, was not composed originally for this opera at all! Rossini was short of time, so he simply grabbed an overture he had written earlier.
01. Sinfonia (6:54)
02. ATTO I – Piano pianissimo (3:30)
03. Ecco ridente in cielo (8:15)
04. Largo al factotum (9:18)
05. Se il mio nome saper voi bramate (3:50)
06. All’idea di quel metallo (5:23)
07. Numero quindici a mano manca (2:54)
08. Una voce poco fa (9:21)
09. La calunnia e’ un venticello (7:17)
10. Dunque io son .. tu non m’inganni (6:52)
11. A un dottor della mia sorte (5:43)
01. Ehi, di casa!…buona gente! (9:05)
02. Alto là! Che cosa accadde (4:13)
03. Freddo ed immobile: come una statua (8:18)
04. Ma vedi il mio destino! (0:45)
05. Pace e giosia sia con voi (5:44)
06. Contro un cor che accende amore (10:16)
07. Don Basilio! Cosa veggo (11:22)
08. Il vecchiotto cerca moglie (3:36)
09. Temporale (4:02)
10. Ah! qual colpo inaspettato! (4:34)
11. Zitti, zitti, piano, piano (3:57)
12. Di sì felice innesto (1:22)
Stereo, ADD, mp3, 320 kbps, 2 hours 16 minutes. Covers, info & synopsis included.