The Barber of Seville
Arizona Opera Presents Rossini’s Greatest Masterpiece
photos courtesy of Arizona Opera
When The Barber of Seville was first performed in 1816, it seemed highly unlikely that Rossini’s comedy would become one of the most beloved operas of all time.
For one thing, the piece was unoriginal. Based on a famous play by Beaumarchais, composer Giovanni Paisiello, already had created a wildly successful opera from the story. When Paisiello’s loyal fans heard about Rossini’s “copy”, they rallied and created a disturbance at the premiere. With that uproar, combined with a lackluster opening night performance, Rossini’s opera seemed doom to failure.
But when an artistic work is good – and Rossini’s Barber is far better than just good – well, as they say, the rest is history. Barber quickly overshadowed Paisiello’s version.
Touted as a masterpiece, it spread all over Europe, and was performed in every capital city from London to St. Petersburg. In 1825 Barber became the first opera ever sung in Italian in New York City, solidifying Rossini as the most popular composer in the world.
A Tale Worth Singing
From the story aspect, The Barber of Seville is actually a sort of prequel. Beaumarchais’ original play was the first in a series of dramas. The second one was The Marriage of Figaro, the source of Mozart’s great opera from the previous century. The characters in Barber continue their story in Figaro. In fact, the Barber of Rossini’s opera is Figaro — pre-marriage.
Mozart’s opera may have greater philosophical depth and a more pointed social message, but it’s hard to think of a more perfect operatic comedy than The Barber of Seville.
“As we listen to Rossini’s masterful music and laugh along with the work composted more than 200 years ago, we are not visiting a ‘museum piece.’” said John Johnson, Board Chair of Arizona Opera, “We are enjoying an art form that is very much alive today.”
It’s worth noting that The Barber of Seville was the very first production that Arizona Opera presented back in 1972, and the Company is delighted for it to make its triumphant return.
The Plot Thickens
The opera tells the classic tale of the handsome Count Almaviva who falls madly in love with the beautiful Rosina. The Count, who wants Rosina to love him, not his title or money, has been disguising himself as a music student named Lindoro. Although the two have not yet spoken, it is a case of “love at first sight.”
Meanwhile, Doctor Bartolo is Rosina’s legal guardian and wants to marry her. Rosina’s music teacher, Don Basilio, is in league with the physician in this quest.
Help enters in the form of Figaro, the Count’s former servant and now the town’s barber. Counting on Dr. Bartolo’s trust in the barber, the Count solicits Figaro to help win Rosina’s favor and make a fool of her ridiculous guardian.
The crafty Figaro offers his services to the Count — for a fee, of course. Thus begins the comedy, filled with twists and turns, mistaken identities and, for the romantics among us,…..SPOILER ALERT: the triumph of true love.
Rossini’s composition is conducted by Francesco Milioto, a rising star in the young generation of conductors. Known for his innovative and thoughtful productions, Arizona Opera’s very own Joshua Borths will direct.
The role of Figaro, the town’s crafty barber, is sung by Joo Won Kang on March 9 and 11, with Jared Bybee alternating on March 10. Stephanie Lauricella sings the role of Rosina on March 9 and 11 with Marion Roose Pullin Arizona Opera Studio Artist Katrina Galka, who was “Cunegonde” in Candide, will take on the role March 10.
The handsome Count Almaviva will be played by David Margulis on March 9 and 11, alternating with Anthony Ciaramitaro on March 10. Alumni Studio Artist Calvin Griffin returns to the Arizona Opera stages as Dr. Bartolo, with current studio artists Zachary Owen, Stephanie Sanchez, and Jarrett Porter, all of them also from Candide, singing the roles of Don Basillio, Berta, and Fiorello, respectively. Rounding out the cast is Dale Dreyfoos playing the role of Ambrogio.