Libretto by Cesare Sterbini after the comedy of the same name by Pierre-Augustin de Beaumarchais
Rossini’s operatic masterpiece The Barber of Seville has been staged all over the world, and even children recognize Figaro’s famous aria, while Figaro qua, Figaro là and La calunnia è un venticello have become bywords.
A square in Seville
Dawn is about to break. Before Doctor Bartolo’s house the young Count Almaviva is serenading Rosina: but the girl’s window does not open and the Count dismisses the players and hides under an arch to wait a better occasion. Now comes Figaro, a baber, busy- body, broker of all trades, the town’s factotum. He is an old acquaintance of the Count’s. Figaro offers his services and proceeds to inform Almaviva that Rosina, the pretty girl he once saw at the Prado in Madrid, is not Doctor Bartolo’s daughter but only ward. The Doctor has recently come to live in Seville and Figaro is a great friend of his: he has free admittance to his house and therefore will be able to aid the Count in meeting the girl. In the meantime Rosina is standing behind the shutter taking advange od the Doctor’s absence from the house. She hears Almaviva’s declaration of love under the shape of another serenade in which the Count calls himself Lindoro, wishing to conquer the girl by his love and not by his riches and title. Figaro announces his plan; that very day a regimente will come to the town and Almaviva will disguise ad a soldier and again admittance to the Doctor’s house by means of a false billeting card. Moreover he will pretend to be drunk because the Doctor surely will not suspect a man full of wine. Figaro gives his address to the Count and enters the Doctor’s house.
A room in Doctor Bartolo’s house
Rosina is anxious to send a letter to Lindoro. Figaro who comes in to make the preliminary advances, appears to her to be the best messenger. But their conversation is interrupted by Bartolo. Figaro hides and Rosina runs away. With Bartolo is Don Basilio, the girl’s music master. He informs the Doctor that Count Almaviva, Rosina’s unknown suitor, is in Seville. Bartolo wants to marry his ward and is worried at the news, but Basilio reassures him. He will spread slander about Bartolo’s rival so that he will be forced to leave the town in no time. The two retire to prepare the wedding contract: Figaro and Rosina can resume their conservation. Figaro delivers the Count’s message and asks the girl to reply in writing. Rosina hesitates, then gives a note to the barber. Doctor Bartolo comes back, notices that a sheet of paper is missing from the writing desk and that his ward has a finger stained with ink. Brevely the girl defends herself. At this very moment the Count arrives disguised as a cavalry soldier and drunk. He shows his billeting card but Bartolo in his turn exhibits an exemption paper. This makes no difference to the fake soldier: he is determined to stay and eventually succeeds in handing a love letter to Rosina. Doctor Bartolo tries hard to grab the paper but must be content to hold a laundry list cleverly substituted by Rosina to the Count’s letter. The drunken soldier raises his voice and draws his sword. There is great confusion. But Figaro begs them all to calm down and the noise has gathered in the square hals the population. In fact some gendarmes arrive to arrest the disturber. But when the soldier exibits a paper the commanging officer bows respectfully and lets the Count go free. Bartolo is astounded: he cannot move and all present make fun of him.
A study in Doctor Bartolo’s house
Bartolo goes back in his mind to the strange happenings: he cannot understand the meaning of the soldier’s appearance. He suspects that he has been sent by the Count. Someone knocks at the door: a young man introduces himself ad Don Alonzo, a pupil of Don Basilio’s. The old music master is ill and sends him to give Rosina her muic lesson. Needless to say, Don Alonzo is the Count. To win Bartolo’s confidence he shows to him Rosina’s letter: this will serve – he says – to break the girl’s illusions by convincing her that the Count had handed her letter to another lover to make fun of her. Bartolo is convinced. He calls Rosina who begins her music lesson while Figaro, arriving in the nick of time, persuades Don Bartolo to be shaved. Pretending to go for the necessary towels he receives from Bartolo a bunch of keys from which he will detach the key of the shutter looking onto the square.Everything seems to proceed well until Don Basilio arrives. Bartolo is about to learn the truth but a purse from the Count and Figaro’s tricks persuade Don Basilio to retreat on the excuse that he suffers from scarlet fever: At last Figaro can shave Don Bartolo and convers ad well ad he can the dialogue between the two lovers. But he is not omnipotent. Don Bartolo hears some words uttered by the music master and, infuriated, send him away. When the room is empty the old servant Berta sings sadly about love, the universal trouble which makes everyone delirious.
Same room as Act one at Doctor Bartolo’s house
Don Basilio tells Doctor Bartolo that Alonzo is unknown to him. Could he be the Count himself? Bartolo decides to hurry matters: he sends Don Basilio to fetch the notary to arrange for the wedding. He shows Rosina the letter given to him by Alonzo and persuades her that both Figaro and Alonzo are procurers hired by Almaviva to deliver the girl into his hands. Rosina falls into the trap: sadly disappointed she accepts to marry her tutor and reveals to him the plat arranged by Figaro to aid her to escape. As soon as Bartolo goes out to call the gendarmes and have Figaro and Lindoro arrested the two appear at the window by means of a ladder from the street. There is a heavy storm. Rosina repulses resolutely Lindoro’s embrace but he makes himself known. He is Count Almaviva. The happy lovers are about to leave by the window with Figaro but they notice with distress that the Doctor has removed the ladder. However Figaro does not lose courage; in the meantime Basilio and the notary arrive and the wedding will take place at once although thoroughly different from the one planned. When Bartolo returns all is settled: the precaution of removing the ladder has played against him. In the end, when the Count declares that he will waive his right to a dowry, the old man’s fury is abated. Figaro puts off his lantern and a propitious darkness envelops the two lovers.