Rosina: Olga Pudova
Count Almaviva: Yevgeny Akhmedov
Figaro: Viktor Korotich
Bartolo: Andrei Spekhov
Basilio: Vadim Kravets
Bertha: Irma Gigolaty
World premiere: 20 February 1816, Teatro Argentina, Rome
Premiere at the Bolshoi (Kamenny) Theatre:
27 November 1822 – Imperial Russian Opera Company (performed in Russian, translated by Rafail Zotov)
22 October 1843 – Imperial Italian Opera Company
Premiere of this production: 29 October 2014
Running time: 3 hours 10 minutes
The performance has one interval
Music by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Cesare Sterbini after Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais' comedy Le Barbier de Séville, ou Précaution inutile
Stage Director and Set Designer: Alain Maratrat
Musical Preparation: Larisa Gergieva
Design of Costumes, Headwear and Puppets: Mireille Dessingy
Production of Puppets: Stéphane Clément
Production of Headwear: Gregoria Recio
Lighting Designer: Pascal Noël
Chorus Master: Pavel Teplov
A square in Seville early in the morning. In front of Dr Bartolo’s house Count Almaviva and a group of musicians are serenading the Count’s beloved Rosina. Rosina, however, does not appear – she is under the strict supervision of her guardian who himself dreams of marrying his ward and taking possession of her dowry. The barber Figaro appears, an old acquaintance of the Count. On discovering that Almaviva is in love with Rosina, the barber resolves to offer his assistance – after all, Figaro is a welcome guest at Bartolo’s house where he is a barber, doctor and even a botanist. Rosina finally succeeds in throwing a note to the Count from her balcony. Almaviva does not wish to reveal his noble standing, and Figaro advises him to claim he is a student called Lindoro. He then suggests the Count pretend to be a drunken soldier and demand lodgings in Bartolo’s house.
A room in Bartolo’s house. Rosina is dreaming of Lindoro. Don Basilio, who is teaching Rosina a song, on discovering the fervent emotions of Count Almaviva resolves to warn Dr Bartolo and advises him to slander his rival in front of Rosina and society at large. The appearance of a drunken soldier (Almaviva in disguise) enrages Bartolo. The doctor sees that the “soldier” is trying to pass a note to Rosina. Chaos ensues and soldiers rush in to restore order, but when the Count quietly mentions his name to the officer, the latter respectfully welcomes him among the general amazement.
Bartolo is sitting in his study. A young man appears and says his name is Don Alonso – he has come to give a music lesson to Rosina instead of Basilio who has fallen ill. Once again it is the Count in disguise. Rosina settles down to study with greater enthusiasm than usual. At the same time the “sham patient” arrives and Figaro again comes to assist – he gives Don Basilio a terrible diagnosis – “scarlatina!” and convinces him to return home and go to bed immediately. During the music lesson Bartolo begins to have his suspicions, before he finally discovers the truth and kicks everyone out. Berta the housekeeper talks of her master’s foolish love.
Bartolo, wishing to hasten on the marriage, sends for a notary. Rosina, whom he has convinced of Lindoro’s deceitfulness, has agreed to marry her guardian. Figaro appears unexpectedly with the Count, who now reveals his true identity. Rosina is thrilled and the lovers decide to elope. But their plans are almost thwarted by the appearance of Don Basilio with the notary, who has come to conclude the marriage contract between Bartolo and Rosina, but the doctor is not at home. Taking advantage of the circumstances, Count Almaviva bribes Basilio, and he agrees to be a witness to the marriage contract concluded by Count Almaviva and Rosina. The appearance of the reprobate Bartolo comes too late to spoil the lovers’ happiness. Moreover, the old man takes comfort in the fact that Almaviva refuses to accept Rosina’s dowry.
What’s the secret of Il barbiere di Siviglia’s eternal youth? Naturally it involves the tradition of comedy in masks, easily recognisable images and situations that are real everywhere and at all times. The plot is simple: some young people want to get married against the wishes of their elderly fathers and guardians. But here the most important characters are the crafty and inventive servants – jacks of all trades, they assist the lovers. But in Rossini’s brilliant opera instead of “maskers” we have real people. All the characters, albeit genetically linked with tradition, are depicted in a new light. Rosina here is no well-educated loving bashful girl; in the original this role was meant for a low-register female voice – typical of operatic practice of the time – and made a “girl with character” of the heroine (it is not by chance that according to Stendhal the first audiences were angered at Rosina appearing as a “war-woman”). In the virtuoso cavatina of the heroine, in line with tradition receiving her lover’s advances, she states that she will be a fine wonderful and faithful wife if... he doesn’t contradict her, of course. Don Basilio is also no conditional masker – instead of a lowly scoundrel and informer we have before us a veritable ideologist of wickedness whose theories are expressed in the famous “calumny aria”.
Pushkin compared Rossini’s sparkling music with the bubbles in a glass of champagne. The most recent stage director, Alain Maratrat, has striven to imbue Il barbiere di Siviglia with a festive mood as well, making the audience participants of his production. The plot of this dynamic production unfolds not just and not so much on-stage – the performers come into the auditorium and truly interact with the audience. The boxes are adorned with flowers and rather than colossal sets there is a blue sky and white drapes, while the costumes are incredibly decorative and varied. The main surprise and the culmination of the opera comes with the appearance of huge towering puppets – these are guests of the masquerade and drunken officers that appear to Bartolo in a dream. Bright and merry, Maratrat’s production is filled with the spirit of Rossini who worked as he lived – overcoming every difficulty with his generous heart. Nadezhda Koulygina
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