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.

Book your ticket to The Barber of Seville now

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 2023 is a revival of an opera originally directed by titian of stage Sir Jonathan Miller. This is an iconic production loved by our audiences for forty years. Watch the trailer to get an idea of what it’s all about:

Sir Jonathan Miller 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. In addition to his international work an opera director, he also 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!