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.