An Introduction to The Barber of Seville
Here’s what you need to know about ENO’s classic production of The Barber of Seville.
It’s a comic masterpiece by Rossini
The Barber of Seville (in Italian Il barbiere di Siviglia) is an opera in four acts by Italian composer Gioachino Rossini. Despite a disastrous opening night – the music teacher tripped over and had a prolonged nosebleed and an unexpected cat wandered on stage – it has gone on to be ‘perhaps the greatest of all comic operas’. Indeed, Rossini himself stayed at home for the second night, until he was awoken by the sound of applause and cheering and his opera has delighted audiences ever since.
Based on a play called Le Barbier de Séville by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais, this is the first of three plays about a character called Figaro.
His second play, Le Mariage de Figaro, was the inspiration for another opera – The Marriage of Figaro by Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, therefore, is considered a prequel to the story of Mozart’s opera, although it was composed 30 years later.
The story follows the escapades of a barber, Figaro, as he assists Count Almaviva in prising the beautiful Rosina away from her lecherous guardian, Dr Bartolo.
Our production is a feast of frivolous fun!
★★★★ ‘Sheer delight’ The Guardian | ★★★★ ‘A national institution’ The Daily Telegraph
First staged in 1987, our production in 2017 is the thirteenth revival of director Jonathan Miller’s classic production of The Barber of Seville. This is an iconic production loved by our audiences for thirty years. Have a look at the trailer to get an idea of what it’s all about:
Director Jonathan Miller has had a more than 30-year relationship with ENO, where his productions have included Rigoletto, The Mikado, Carmen, Der Rosenkavalier, La traviata, La bohème and The Elixir of Love. Apart from his international engagements as an opera director, he has worked for theatres in London, Europe and the USA.
You’ve probably heard it before
The Barber of Seville is full of great tunes that are all incredibly familiar, including the fast, jaunty overture and Figaro’s famous aria, ‘Make way for the servant who does everything’ (‘Largo al factotum’).
Rossini’s overture is perfectly matched for a high-speed cartoon chase: Looney Tunes released a classic cartoon episode called ‘The Rabbit of Seville’ created in 1950. After the usual chasing around, Bugs Bunny manages to give Elmer Fudd a clean shave to the soundtrack of Rossini’s overture.
The opera’s best known aria, ‘Make way for the servant who does everything’ (‘Largo al factotum’) is sung by the title character, named Figaro, on his entrance has also been a cartoon score, this time for the cartoon, Tom & Jerry. Figaro sings his own praises – ‘bravo Figaro, bravo, bravissimo!’ – and shows how in demand he is!
If you liked this, you'll love Mozart's 'sequel'