Humor and High Jinks in Rossini's 'The Barber of Seville'

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Peter Mattei as Figaro and Pretty Yende as Rosina in 'Il Barbiere di Siviglia.'

Despite its disastrous premiere in 1816 — complete with raucous heckling, a bloody nose and a stray cat scampering across the stage — Rossini’s The Barber of Seville quickly joined the ranks of the best-loved and most-performed operas in the world. Based on the first of a trilogy of plays by the French writer Pierre Beaumarchais (the second of which is The Marriage of Figaro), Barber is full of characters and tunes that have delighted audiences for centuries.

In this episode, the He Sang/She Sang team talks with WQXR morning show host Jeff Spurgeon about why Figaro’s memorable aria “Largo al factotum” is a baritone’s “calling card” aria and how Rossini’s music has found its way into movies, TV commercials and everyone’s favorite Saturday morning cartoons.

Jeff Spurgeon's YouTube pick:

(Note: this podcast was recorded shortly before we learned of the death of soprano Roberta Peters. We mourn her passing and are grateful to remember her artistry in sharing this clip of her in one of her signature roles, Rosina, in Rossini's The Barber of Seville.)

Merrin Lazyan's YouTube pick:

Mike Shobe's YouTube pick:

This episode features excerpts from the following album:

Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (RCA, 1987)
— Robert Merrill, baritone; Roberta Peters, soprano; Georgio Tozzi, bass; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra conducted by Erich Leinsdorf