The Barber of Seville

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Il barbiere di Siviglia
The Barber of Seville
Opera buffa by Gioachino Rossini
Alexandre Fragonard - Scene de L'orage (Barbier de Seville).jpg
1830 lithograph by Alexandre Fragonard
Native title
Il barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L'inutile precauzione
Librettist Cesare Sterbini
LanguageItalian
Based on Beaumarchais's comedy Le Barbier de Séville
Premiere
20 February 1816 (1816-02-20)

The Barber of Seville, or The Useless Precaution (Italian : Il barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L'inutile precauzione [il barˈbjɛːre di siˈviʎʎa osˈsiːa liˈnuːtile prekautˈtsjoːne] ) is an opera buffa in two acts by Gioachino Rossini with an Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini. The libretto was based on Pierre Beaumarchais's French comedy Le Barbier de Séville (1775). The première of Rossini's opera (under the title Almaviva, o sia L'inutile precauzione) took place on 20 February 1816 at the Teatro Argentina, Rome, [1] with designs by Angelo Toselli.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to Vulgar Latin of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. In spite of not existing any Italian community in their respective national territories and of not being spoken at any level, Italian is included de jure, but not de facto, between the recognized minority languages of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Romania. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both standardized Italian and other regional languages.

Opera buffa is a genre of opera. It was first used as an informal description of Italian comic operas variously classified by their authors as commedia in musica, commedia per musica, dramma bernesco, dramma comico, divertimento giocoso.

Gioachino Rossini 19th-century Italian opera composer

Gioachino Antonio Rossini was an Italian composer who gained fame for his 39 operas, although he also wrote many songs, some chamber music and piano pieces, and some sacred music. He set new standards for both comic and serious opera before retiring from large-scale composition while still in his thirties, at the height of his popularity.

Contents

Rossini's Barber has proven to be one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy within music, and has been described as the opera buffa of all "opere buffe". After two hundred years, it remains a popular work. [2]

Composition history

Rossini's opera recounts the events of the first of the three plays by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais that revolve around the clever and enterprising character named Figaro, the barber of the title. Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro, composed 30 years earlier in 1786, is based on the second part of the Beaumarchais trilogy. The first Beaumarchais play was originally conceived as an opéra comique, but was rejected as such by the Comédie-Italienne. [3] The play as it is now known was premiered in 1775 by the Comédie-Française at the Théâtre des Tuileries in Paris. [4]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Austrian composer of the Classical period

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era.

<i>The Marriage of Figaro</i> opera by Mozart with a libretto in Italian by Lorenzo Da Ponte

The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492, is an opera buffa in four acts composed in 1786 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with an Italian libretto written by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 1 May 1786. The opera's libretto is based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro, which was first performed in 1784. It tells how the servants Figaro and Susanna succeed in getting married, foiling the efforts of their philandering employer Count Almaviva to seduce Susanna and teaching him a lesson in fidelity.

<i>The Marriage of Figaro</i> (play) comedy by Beaumarchais

The Marriage of Figaro is a comedy in five acts, written in 1778 by Pierre Beaumarchais. This play is the second in the Figaro trilogy, preceded by The Barber of Seville and followed by The Guilty Mother.

Other operas based on the first play were composed by Giovanni Paisiello (his Il barbiere di Siviglia premiered in 1782), by Nicolas Isouard in 1796, and then by Francesco Morlacchi in 1816. Though the work of Paisiello triumphed for a time, only Rossini's version has stood the test of time and continues to be a mainstay of operatic repertoire. On 11 November 1868, two days before Rossini's death, the composer Costantino Dall'Argine (1842–1877) premiered an opera based on the same libretto as Rossini's work, [5] bearing a dedication to Rossini. [6] The premiere was not a failure, but critics condemned the "audacity" of the young composer and the work is now forgotten. [6] [7]

Giovanni Paisiello Neapolitan (Italian) composer of the Classical era

Giovanni Paisiello was an Italian composer of the Classical era, and was the most popular opera composer of the late 1700s.

<i>The Barber of Seville</i> (Paisiello) comic opera by Giovanni Paisiello

Il barbiere di Siviglia, ovvero La precauzione inutile is a comic opera by Giovanni Paisiello from a libretto by Giuseppe Petrosellini, even though his name is not identified on the score's title page.

Nicolas Isouard Maltese composer

Nicolas Isouard was a French composer.

Rossini was well known for being remarkably productive, completing an average of two operas per year for 19 years, and in some years writing as many as four. Musicologists believe that, true to form, the music for Il barbiere di Siviglia was composed in just under three weeks, [8] although the famous overture was actually recycled from two earlier Rossini operas, Aureliano in Palmira and Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra and thus contains none of the thematic material in Il barbiere di Siviglia itself.

Overture in music was originally the instrumental introduction to a ballet, opera, or oratorio in the 17th century. During the early Romantic era, composers such as Beethoven and Mendelssohn composed overtures which were independent, self-existing instrumental, programmatic works that presaged genres such as the symphonic poem. These were "at first undoubtedly intended to be played at the head of a programme".

<i>Aureliano in Palmira</i> opera by Gioachino Rossini

Aureliano in Palmira is an operatic dramma serio in two acts written by Gioachino Rossini to an Italian libretto in which the librettist was credited only by the initials "G. F. R." The libretto has generally been attributed to Giuseppe Felice Romani, but sometimes to the otherwise unknown Gian Francesco Romanelli. It has been suggested that the latter name may have resulted from a confusion of Romani with Luigi Romanelli, La Scala's house poet prior to Romani's appointment to the post.

<i>Elisabetta, regina dInghilterra</i> opera by Gioachino Rossini

Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra is a dramma per musica or opera in two acts by Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Giovanni Schmidt, from the play Il paggio di Leicester by Carlo Federici, which itself "was derived from a novel The Recess (1785) by Sophia Lee."

Performance history

The premiere of Rossini's opera at the Teatro Argentina in Rome [9] (20 February 1816) was a disaster: the audience hissed and jeered throughout, and several on-stage accidents occurred. [8] Furthermore, many of the audience were supporters of one of Rossini's rivals, Giovanni Paisiello, who played on mob mentality to provoke the rest of the audience to dislike the opera. [8] Paisiello had already composed The Barber of Seville and took Rossini's new version to be an affront to his version. In particular, Paisiello and his followers were opposed to the use of basso buffo, which is common in comic opera. [10] The second performance, however, was successful. [8] The original French play, Le Barbier de Séville, had a similar story: poorly received at first, only to become a favorite within a week.

Comic opera opera genre

Comic opera denotes a sung dramatic work of a light or comic nature, usually with a happy ending.

The opera was first performed in England on 10 March 1818 at the King's Theatre in London in Italian, soon followed on 13 October at the Covent Garden Theatre by an English version translated by John Fawcett and Daniel Terry. It was first performed in America on 3 May 1819 in English (probably the Covent Garden version) at the Park Theatre in New York. [11] It was given in French at the Théâtre d'Orléans in New Orleans on 4 March 1823, [12] and became the first opera ever to be performed in Italian in New York, when Manuel Garcia (who played Almaviva) and his Italian troupe opened their first season there with Il barbiere on 29 November 1825 at the Park Theatre. The cast of eight had three other members of his family, including the 17-year-old Maria-Felicia, later known as Maria Malibran. [13]

The role of Rosina was originally written for a contralto. According to music critic Richard Osborne, writing in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera , "it is important to record the degree to which singers have sometimes distorted Rossini's intentions. The most serious distortion has been the upward transposition of the role of Rosina, turning her from a lustrous alto into a pert soprano." [14] However, it has also been noted that Rossini, who frequently altered his music for specific singers, wrote a new aria for the second act for Joséphine Fodor-Mainvielle, a soprano who had sung Rosina in the 1818 London premiere, and sang the new aria c. 1820 at the Théâtre-Italien in Paris, where it was published. [15]

The singing lesson in act 2 has often been turned into "a show-stopping cabaret." [14] Adelina Patti was known to include Luigi Arditi's "Il bacio", the Bolero from Verdi's I vespri siciliani , the Shadow Song from Meyerbeer's Dinorah , and Henry Bishop's "Home! Sweet Home!". Nellie Melba followed suit, accompanying herself on the piano in the final song. [14] Pauline Viardot began the practice of inserting Alexander Alyabyev's "Nightingale". Maria Callas sang a cut-down version of Rossini's own "Contro un cor."

Once after Patti had sung a particularly florid rendition of the opera's legitimate aria, 'Una voce poco fa', Rossini is reported to have asked her: "Very nice, my dear, and who wrote the piece you have just performed?" [14]

The piece is a staple of the operatic repertoire [16] Because of a scarcity of true contraltos, [17] the role of Rosina has most frequently been sung by a coloratura mezzo-soprano (with or without pitch alterations, depending on the singer), and has in the past, and occasionally in more recent times, been sung by coloratura sopranos such as Marcella Sembrich, Maria Callas, Roberta Peters, Gianna D'Angelo, Victoria de los Ángeles, Beverly Sills, Lily Pons, Diana Damrau, Edita Gruberová, Kathleen Battle and Luciana Serra. Famous recent mezzo-soprano Rosinas include Marilyn Horne, Teresa Berganza, Lucia Valentini Terrani, Susanne Marsee, Cecilia Bartoli, Joyce DiDonato, Jennifer Larmore, Elīna Garanča, and Vesselina Kasarova. Famous contralto Rosinas include Ewa Podleś.

Roles

Role [18] Voice type [19] Premiere cast, 20 February 1816
(Conductor: Gioachino Rossini)
Count Almaviva tenor Manuel Garcia
Bartolo, doctor of medicine, Rosina's guardian bass Bartolomeo Botticelli
Rosina, rich pupil in Bartolo's house contralto [20] Geltrude Righetti-Giorgi
Figaro, barber baritone [21] Luigi Zamboni
Basilio, Rosina's music teacher, hypocritebassZenobio Vitarelli
Berta, old governess in Bartolo's house soprano [22] Elisabetta Loyselet
Fiorello, Almaviva's servantbass [23] Paolo Biagelli
Ambrogio, Bartolo's servantbass [24]
Police Sergeant ("Officer")bass [25]
A notaryDoes not sing
Chorus: Officers, soldiers, street-musicians

Synopsis

Place: Seville, Spain [26]
Time: 18th century [27]

Act 1

The square in front of Bartolo's house

In a public square outside Bartolo's house a band of musicians and a poor student named Lindoro are serenading, to no avail, the window of Rosina ("Ecco, ridente in cielo"; "There, laughing in the sky"). Lindoro, who is really the young Count Almaviva in disguise, hopes to make the beautiful Rosina love him for himself – not his money. Almaviva pays off the musicians who then depart, leaving him to brood alone. Rosina is the young ward of the grumpy, elderly Bartolo and she is allowed very little freedom because Bartolo plans to marry her once she is of age and thus appropriate her not inconsiderable dowry.

Figaro approaches singing (Aria: "Largo al factotum della città"; "Make way for the factotum of the city"). Since Figaro used to be a servant of the Count, the Count asks him for assistance in helping him meet Rosina, offering him money should he be successful in arranging this. (Duet: "All'idea di quel metallo"; "At the idea of that metal"). Figaro advises the Count to disguise himself as a drunken soldier, ordered to be billeted with Bartolo, so as to gain entrance to the house. For this suggestion, Figaro is richly rewarded.

A room in Bartolo's house with four doors

The scene begins with Rosina's cavatina, "Una voce poco fa" ("A voice a little while ago"). (This aria was originally written in the key of E major, but it is sometimes transposed a semitone up into F major for coloratura sopranos to perform, giving them the chance to sing extra, almost traditional, cadenzas, sometimes reaching high Ds or even Fs.)

Knowing the Count only as Lindoro, Rosina writes to him. As she is leaving the room, Bartolo and Basilio enter. Bartolo is suspicious of the Count, and Basilio advises that he be put out of the way by creating false rumours about him (this aria, "La calunnia è un venticello" – "Calumny is a little breeze" – is almost always sung a tone lower than the original D major).

When the two have gone, Rosina and Figaro enter. Figaro asks Rosina to write a few encouraging words to Lindoro, which she has actually already written. (Duet: "Dunque io son...tu non m'inganni?"; "Then I'm the one...you're not fooling me?"). Although surprised by Bartolo, Rosina manages to fool him, but he remains suspicious. (Aria: "A un dottor della mia sorte"; "To a doctor of my class").

Count Almaviva, disguised as a soldier and pretending to be drunk, enters the house and demands to be quartered there. In fear of the drunken man, Berta the housekeeper rushes to Bartolo for protection. Bartolo tells the "soldier" that he (Bartolo) has an official exemption which excuses him from the requirement to quarter soldiers in his home. Almaviva pretends to be too drunk and belligerent to understand, and dares Bartolo to brawl. While Bartolo searches his cluttered desk for the official document which would prove his exemption, Almaviva whispers to Rosina that he is Lindoro in disguise, and passes a love-letter to her. Bartolo suspiciously demands to know what is in the piece of paper in Rosina's hands, but she fools him by handing over her laundry list. Bartolo and the Count argue loudly. Basilio enters; then Figaro, who warns that the noise of the argument is rousing the whole neighborhood. Finally, the noise attracts the attention of the Officer of the Watch and his troops, who crowd into the room. Bartolo demands that the Officer arrest the "drunken soldier". The Officer starts to do so, but Almaviva quietly reveals his true identity to the Officer, and he (the Officer) backs off and stands down. Bartolo and Basilio are astonished and mystified; Figaro laughs quietly at them. (Finale: "Fredda ed immobile, come una statua"; "Cold and still, just like a statue"). The confusion intensifies and causes everyone to suffer headaches and auditory hallucinations ("Mi par d'esser con la testa in un'orrida fucina; dell'incudini sonore l'importuno strepitar."; "My head seems to be in a fiery forge: the sound of the anvils deafens the ear.")

Act 2

A room in Bartolo's house with a piano

Almaviva again appears at the doctor's house, this time disguised as a priest who is also a singing tutor and pretending to act as substitute for the supposedly ailing Basilio, Rosina's regular singing teacher. Initially, Bartolo is suspicious, but does allow Almaviva to enter when the Count gives him Rosina's letter. He describes his plan to discredit Lindoro whom he believes to be one of the Count's servants, intent on pursuing women for his master. While Almaviva pretends to give Rosina her singing lesson, Figaro arrives to shave Bartolo. Bartolo demurs, but Figaro makes such a scene he agrees, but in order not to leave the supposed music master alone with Rosina, the doctor has Figaro shave him right there in the music room. When Basilio suddenly appears, he is bribed by a full purse from Almaviva and persuaded to leave again, with much discussion of how ill he looks. (Quintet: "Don Basilio! – Cosa veggo!"; "Don Basilio! – What do I see?"). Figaro begins to shave Bartolo, but Bartolo overhears the lovers conspiring, and angrily drives everybody away.

The scene returns to the location of act 1 with a grill looking out onto the square. Bartolo orders Basilio to have the notary ready to marry him to Rosina that evening. He also explains his plot to come between the lovers. Basilio leaves and Rosina arrives. Bartolo shows Rosina the letter she wrote to "Lindoro", and persuades her that this is evidence that Lindoro is merely a flunky of Almaviva and is toying with her at Almaviva's behest. Rosina believes him and agrees to marry him.

During an instrumental interlude, the music creates a thunder storm to indicate the passage of time. The Count and Figaro climb up a ladder to the balcony and enter the room through a window. Rosina shows Almaviva the letter and accuses him of betraying her. Almaviva reveals his identity and the two reconcile. While Almaviva and Rosina are enraptured by one another, Figaro keeps urging them to leave. Two people are heard approaching the front door, who later turn out to be Basilio and the notary. However, when the Count, Rosina, and Figaro attempt to leave by way of the ladder, they discover it has been removed. The marriage contract requires two witnesses; Figaro is one, but another is needed. The Count makes Basilio an offer he can't refuse: the choice of accepting a bribe and being a witness to his marriage or receiving two bullets in the head (an easy choice, Basilio says). He and Figaro witness the signatures to a marriage contract between the Count and Rosina. Bartolo barges in, accompanied by the Officer and the men of the watch, but too late; the marriage is already complete. The befuddled Bartolo (who was the one who had removed the ladder) is pacified by being allowed to retain Rosina's dowry. The opera concludes with an anthem to love ("Amor e fede eterna, si vegga in noi regnar!").

Recordings

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References

Notes

  1. Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Il barbiere di Siviglia (1816)" . L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  2. Fisher, Burton D., The Barber of Seville (Opera Classics Library Series). Grand Rapids: Opera Journeys, 2005.
  3. Weinstock 1968, p. 54; Oborne, Charles 1994, p. 57.
  4. Cordier 1883, p. 13 Archived 17 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine .
  5. Weinstock 1968, p. 366.
  6. 1 2 D'Arcais, F. (1869). "Rassegna Musicale". Direzione della nuova antologia (in Italian). Firenze: Direzione della nuova antologia. 10: 404.
  7. "[Article]". Gazzetta Piemontese (in Italian). 17 November 1868. p. 2.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Osborne, Richard 2007, pp. 38–41 Archived 17 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine .
  9. Osborne, Charles (1994). The Bel Canto Operas. Portland: Amadeus Press. p. 52. ISBN   0-931340-71-3.
  10. The Barber of Seville Archived 14 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine at musicwithease.com
  11. Loewenberg 1978, columns 643–646.
  12. Kmen 1966, p. 97.
  13. Sommer 1992, p. 586.
  14. 1 2 3 4 Osborne, Richard 1992, p. 311.
  15. The aria is included as an appendix to the critical edition of the opera edited by Patricia Brauner. See lecture given on 24 October 2009 Archived 25 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine by Philip Gossett on the new critical edition of Il barbiere di Siviglia (minutes 19–25) (published online on 10 February 2014 by the University of Chicago); see also "Fodor-Mainvielle, Joséphine" in Kutsch & Riemens 2003, p. 1500–01.
  16. "Opera Statistics". Operabase. Archived from the original on 17 September 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  17. Myers, Eric, "Sweet and Low: The case of the vanishing contralto Archived 18 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine , Opera News , December 1996.
  18. Roles are listed as given in the 1816 libretto Archived 10 March 2017 at the Wayback Machine (Rome: Crispino Puccinelli).
  19. The voice types given here refer to the original cast as listed in a 2010 program book from Fondazione Teatro La Fenice di Venezia (see Il barbiere di Siviglia, p. 37 [pdf p. 51]), except for Figaro. Although the program book lists Figaro as a bass, all other sources cited here have baritone.
  20. Originally written for contralto according to a 2010 program book from La Fenice, as well as Richard Osborne 1992, p. 311. Contemporary printed scores tend to list Rosina as a mezzo-soprano role, and the role is listed as mezzo-soprano by Charles Osborne 1994, p. 52; Gosset & Brauner 2001, p. 776; and Kobbé 1997, p. 667. Actual casting practice of opera houses varies widely. Some mezzo-sopranos can sing it as originally written without alteration, but a popular transposed version is often used when a soprano is cast in the role. Singers of all three voice types have found considerable success with the role (Foil & Berger 2006).
  21. Listed as baritone by Richard Osborne 1992, p. 311; Charles Osborne 1994, p. 52; Gosset & Brauner 2001, p. 776; and Kobbé 1997, p. 310.
  22. Also listed as soprano by Gossett & Brauner 2001, p. 776; Charles Osborne 1994, p. 52; and Kobbé 1997, p. 667. In modern performance the role of Berta is also sung by mezzo-sopranos, and it is listed as mezzo-soprano by Richard Osborne 1992, p. 311. See also, Il barbiere di Siviglia on the MetOpera Database Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine (performance archives of the Metropolitan Opera)
  23. Also listed as bass by Richard Osborne 1992, p. 311; Charles Osborne 1994, p. 52; and Kobbé 1997, p. 667. Listed as baritone by Gossett & Brauner 2001, p. 776.
  24. The very elderly servant yawns aloud a few times, and speaks one or two words expressing his desire to sleep.
  25. He has only one solo line, but it's a very significant one.
  26. The plot synopsis is partly based on Melitz 1921, pp. 29–31. Archived 10 March 2017 at the Wayback Machine , with updates, clarifications, and modifications to its often out-of-date language.
  27. Osborne, Richard 1998, p. 309

Sources