Rossini’s ‘Il barbiere di Siviglia’ – Work No. 97 in our collection

Gioachino Rossini (29.02.1792 – 13.11.1868) was an Italian composer who gained fame chiefly for his thirty-nine operas; the most popular of which is Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). He also wrote many songs, some chamber music, including his six delightful string sonatas, piano pieces, and some sacred music including the Stabat Mater and the Petite Messe solennelle.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is frequently performed in opera houses around the world and there are currently nearly thirty versions currently available on CD and over twenty video versions available on either DVD or Blu-Ray disc. The Barber of Seville is an opera buffa in two acts by Gioachino Rossini with an Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini. The plot centres around the beautiful Rosina who is kept all but prisoner by her guardian Bartolo. But when Count Almaviva falls in love with Rosina from afar, he enlists the help of cunning barber Figaro to help him outwit Bartolo. A comic battle of wills ensues, but will love or greed be triumphant? You must listen to the opera to find out!

Verdi considered Il barbiere di Siviglia to be the greatest operatic comedy – a perfect marriage of wit, energy and exhilarating musical invention. Rossini’s score fizzes with virtuosic brilliance, combining bravura solo arias, set to some of the composer’s best-loved melodies, with breath-taking, intricate ensembles, weaving together the story’s many strands into glittering musical and dramatic harmony.

Fortunately there is a 3 CD set issued by Naxos, at bargain price, and conducted by Will Humburg that in many respects is the equal or in some cases superior to all of the other versions available. We would strongly urge you to try this version.

If you wish to watch the opera as well as listen to it then we can recommend a dramatic version captured at London’s Royal Opera House with an unbeatable cast in a sparkling, colourful production. In this production Joyce DiDonato sings an astonishing Rosina from a wheelchair after breaking her ankle on the opening night. This works surprisingly well; as DiDonato wrote ‘being trapped in the wheelchair was a quite literal way of demonstrating Rosina’s frustration and huge desire to break free’.

 View the other works in our collection.