The Barber of Seville/ Il barbiere di Siviglia

Bugs Bunny once did a version of The Barber of Seville. But Rossini did it first. The comic opera lends itself to being lampooned and “cartooned.” It’s a wild adventure filled with gossip and secrets where a happy ending is guaranteed.


Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is so embedded in popular culture, Bugs Bunny sampled its songs. It’s a madcap romp involving disguises; false identities; and a busybody, matchmaking barber. Multiple suitors are vying for the same woman’s affections in an opera so slapstick, it was suitable material for a cartoon. In the original version, the tunes aren’t looney. They’re lyrical.

Libretto by Cesare Sterbini from the comedy by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais The story takes place in 18th century Seville.


Count Almaviva comes, in disguise, to the house of the elderly Dr. Bartolo to serenade his young ward, Rosina. Dr. Bartolo intends to marry Rosina, and he’s confined her to his house.

Figaro, the titular barber, has access to the homes of Seville’s elite. He knows the town’s secrets and scandals. He arrives at Dr. Bartolo’s home and pledges his help to Count Almaviva, who takes on the persona of “Lindoro,” a poor student who hopes young Rosina will love him not because he’s a nobleman, but for himself. To enter Bartolo’s house, Figaro devises a plan: The Count will disguise himself as a drunken soldier with orders to be quartered at Dr. Bartolo’s. Then, he can declare his love for Rosina.

Scene Two. Alone in the house, Rosina reflects on the voice that has enchanted her and resolves to use her considerable charm to meet “Lindoro.” Dr. Bartolo enters with Rosina’s music master, Don Basilio, who warns him that Count Almaviva (Rosina’s admirer) has been seen in Seville. Dr. Bartolo decides to marry Rosina immediately – before any other suitor can have her. Figaro overhears this, warns Rosina and promises to deliver a letter from her to “Lindoro.”

Disguised as a drunken soldier, Almaviva passes Rosina a note, which she manages to hide from Dr. Bartolo, who argues that he has exemption from housing soldiers. An argument ensues between the Count and Dr. Bartolo.

Figaro enters and announces that a curious crowd has gathered in the street. The city guards burst in to arrest the drunk and disorderly soldier. The Count quietly reveals his true identity to the captain of the guards. He’s released, to Dr. Bartolo’s chagrin and everyone’s amazement.


Dr. Bartolo, alone in his study, suspects the “drunken soldier” was a spy. The Count returns, this time disguised as Don Alonso, a music teacher and student of Don Basilio. He says he’s come to give Rosina her music lesson instead of Basilio, who’s at home sick. “Don Alonso” tells Dr. Bartolo he’s staying at the same inn as Almaviva and has found Rosina’s letter. He offers to tell Rosina it was given to him by another woman, proving Lindoro is toying with her. This convinces Dr. Bartolo that “Don Alonso” is a true student of Don Basilio, and he allows him to give Rosina her music lesson.

Figaro arrives to give Dr. Bartolo his shave and manages to snatch the key that opens the balcony shutters. The shaving is about to begin when Don Basilio shows up looking perfectly healthy. To get the meddlesome Basilio out of the way, Figaro convinces him he has scarlet fever and should go to bed at once. With Basilio out of the way, the shaving begins and distracts Dr. Bartolo from hearing Almaviva plotting with Rosina to elope that night. But Dr. Bartolo hears the phrase “my disguise” and realizes he’s been tricked again.

Later that evening, Basilio is summoned by Dr. Bartolo and is told to bring a notary so Rosina and Bartolo can be married. Dr. Bartolo then shows Rosina her letter to Lindoro as proof that Lindoro is tricking her. Convinced she’s been deceived, she agrees to marry Dr. Bartolo and tells him of the plan to elope with Lindoro.

After a thunderstorm, Figaro and the Count climb over the wall into Bartolo’s house. Rosina is furious with them, until Almaviva reveals his identity and professes his love for her. Basilio arrives with the notary.

Bribing and threatening him, Basilio agrees to be a witness to the marriage of Rosina and Count Almaviva. Dr. Bartolo arrives with soldiers, but it’s too late. Count Almaviva explains tells Dr. Bartolo that it’s useless to protest, and Dr. Bartolo accepts he has been beaten. Figaro, Rosina and the Count celebrate their good fortune.

POPera Facts

If you think opera is nothing but drama and death, you haven’t seen Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.

But you’ve undoubtedly heard its music. Both Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker sampled its songs. The Looney Tunes version, The Rabbit of Seville, is almost as zany as Rossini’s original.

If you like the antics of The Three Stooges, then The Barber of Seville is not too silly for you.

Disguises, false identities and a busybody, matchmaking barber are all part of the plot. The comedy is broad and physical. It’s no wonder cartoons adapted the theme and music.

And after all the laughs, there is, of course, a happy ending.

About the Composer

Gioachino Rossini


Known as Italian opera’s comic genius and the leading opera composer of the first half of the 19th century, Gioachino Rossini was the master of simple melody and clear rhythm.

Born in 1792 to a musical family – his father a trumpet player, his mother an opera singer – Rossini mastered the trade at an early age, writing his first opera at age 8 and becoming a national celebrity by the time he was 21. From Venice to Milan, from Rome to Naples, Rossini gained a reputation for his notable style and his uncanny speed at producing operas.

Between 1808 and 1829, Rossini composed no fewer than 40 operas. Among his greatest successes are The Barber of Seville (1816), La Cenerentola(1817), La Gazza Ladra (1817), Semiramide (1823) and William Tell (1829).

His comic masterpiece, The Barber of Seville, has delighted audiences of all ages for nearly 200 years. Also bearing the title The Useless Precaution, the opera was an instant sensation in Italy and shortly thereafter throughout Europe as the quintessential opera buffa. (That’s Italian for “comic opera.”)

Based on Beaumarchais’ play , The Barber of Seville is sometimes referred to as the first modern Italian opera. Written by the then-23-year-old composer, The Barber of Seville came at a time when Italian audiences were still amused by the farcical operatic conventions of opera buffa. While The Barber is often referred to as an Italian opera buffa, it is the true precursor to subsequent lyric comedies such as The Elixir of Love, Don Pasquale and even Verdi’s Falstaff.

Rossini composed The Barber of Seville in just three weeks, with the exception of the now famous overture, which he borrowed from his own opera Aureliano in Palmira.

In 1822, Rossini settled in Paris and became the Royal Composer and Inspector General of Singing in France. Despite his enormous success – even Beethoven congratulated him on The Barber of Seville – Rossini stopped composing at the age of 37.

Living off the wealth of his achievements, Rossini lived lavishly until his death in 1868. He was buried in Paris but 19 years later his remains were re-interred in the church of Santa Croce in Florence.