Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia is set to delight you during the Met Opera matinee broadcast, on Saturday at 1 pm. Whether it will be your first time with Rossini’s Figaro, or your tenth, listeners can get something out of this farcical comedy on every turn.
But for a moment in history, it didn’t seem like Barbiere would be an opera for the ages — its 1816 Rome premiere was, by most measures, a complete disaster. Barbiere was based on a play that had been already adapted for opera some decades before by the composer Paisiello. Rossini actually went to great lengths to avoid interfering with Paisiello’s legacy, and wrote a letter as a precaution against potential hard feelings. But on opening night, several Paisiello fans packed the theater, whistling and jeering. The ensuing commotion from the audience spilled onto the the stage — prop malfunctions, a stray cat, and even bodily injury plagued the evening’s performers. Thankfully, the second performance was better received. It was a great success, and hasn’t looked back since.
Barbiere got a boost (as if it needed it) in the twentieth century. It made a mark on pop culture thanks to musical references from the cartoon series Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry, as well as the sitcom Seinfeld and a slew of commercials. The result? Hundreds of thousands of people contentedly humming the overture or an aria of one of the opera world’s biggest hits.
Conductor: Maurizio Benini
Rosina: Pretty Yende
Count Almaviva: Dmitry Korchak
Figaro: Peter Mattei
Dr. Bartolo: Maurizio Muraro
Don Basilio: Mikhail Petrenko