Theatre: The Barber of Seville

Welcome to my shop
Lemme cut your mop
Lemme shave your crop
Bugs Bunny's improvised English lyrics, Rabbit of Seville

Or, in the original Italian, Il barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L'inutile precauzione: "The Barber of Seville, or The Useless Precaution." It is a Romantic Comedy drawing upon the Commedia dell'Arte tradition.

The Opera we're talking about is the version composed by Gioachino Rossini, and it isn't the only work by this name. Pierre Beaumarchais wrote a play, Le Barbier de Seville, which was first performed in 1775; it has been adapted a good four times, but Rossini's work gets the Adaptation Displacement Award by virtue of popularity. Its "sequel," The Marriage of Figaro, was actually written some 30 years earlier by some Austrian kid named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The third play in the Beaumarchais's trilogy, La Mere coupable ("The Guilty Mother"), was also adapted into opera, but today is basically forgotten by history, possibly due to its Genre Shift to Darker and Edgier drama.

The Barber of Seville revolves around a noble, Count Almaviva, who has a serious case of Love at First Sight with a girl named Rosina, currently living as a ward to Dr. Bartolo. The Count, who wants Rosina to love him, not his title or money, has been disguising himself as a music student named Lindoro, but the two have not even had an occasion to speak yet. Help enters in the form of Figaro, the Count's former servant and the titular Barber of Seville, who has Dr. Bartolo's trust and offers his services to the Count — for a fee, of course. This being a comedy, Hilarity Ensues.

The main opposition is the aforementioned Dr. Bartolo, a physician who wants to marry Rosina himself. Rosina's music teacher, Don Basilio, is in league with him in this quest. There is also a character named Berta, also known as Marcellina, who was probably thrown in as a Continuity Nod (or Chekhov's Gunman) to Mozart's opus; she is The Ghost in Beaumarchais' play, and her role in Barber amounts to little more than a cameo.

You've probably heard of this opera, and that's because The Barber of Seville is one of the most popular productions of the genre. As observed by characters in the manga Victorian Romance Emma, nobody dies in this show; it also offers a lot of opportunities for humor which even modern audiences would get. And we can hardly forget the Looney Tunes homage stuff ("Rabbit of Seville", anyone?). And Woody Woodpecker's "The Barber of Seville" take on it as well.

The Barber of Seville provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming: The Count repeatedly mangles Bartolo's name, including "Balordo" (idiot), "Bertoldo" (blockhead) and "Barbaro" (barbarian).
  • Almighty Janitor. Figaro fits the type, despite being a barber.
  • The Barber: Figaro
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: The Barber of Seville is the source of the "Figaro" aria, not The Marriage of Figaro.
  • The Cast Showoff: Whoever plays Rosina traditionally extemporizes during the aria "Una voce poco fa". See Beverly Sills's version for an example.
    • She also has the extended 'singing lesson scene' where the character does this with very little plot relevance at some length, and is more or less expected to showboat to the best of her ability. Some singers have been reported to stretch it out for at least 20 minutes. Others accompany themselves on the piano or other instrument.
  • Commedia dell'Arte: Rosina and Count Almaviva as the innamorati (Official Couple); Figaro as the Arlecchino and a much-less-violent version of the Brighella; Dr. Bartolo as (get this) Il Dottore.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Bartolo and Basilio, although it's more antagonistic than actually "evil."
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The entire opera takes place over about 18 hours.
  • "I Am" Song: Largo al factotum, of course
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Dr. Bartolo's overall plan
  • The Ingenue: Rosina
    • Highly debatable. Rosina is actually Not So Different from Figaro - he even goes as far as admitting that she's a master of trickery. Her only limiting factor, unfortunately, is the fact that as a woman, she has to abide by the standards of the time. And, of course, that if she could get out of her predicament herself, there wouldn't be any opera.
  • Motor Mouth: Bartolo, with his aria "a un dottor della mia sorte."
  • Playing Drunk: The Count pretends to be drunk in order to disarm suspicion.
  • Play Within a Play: Bizarrely subverted - Rosina has the sheet music from an aria of an opera called The Useless Precaution, and sings it in the music lesson scene. The actual opera - The Barber of Seville - is subtitled The Useless Precaution.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Quite a lot of the overture is shared with Rossini's earlier Aureliano in Palmira.
  • Secondary Character Title: Almaviva is the protagonist, although Figaro's role is far from minor.
  • Serenade Your Lover
  • Signature Line: Though they may not always get it right, the famous rapid-fire "Figaro figarofigarofigaro" bit from "Figaro's Aria" is one of the more well-known opera cliches.
  • Tenor Boy: Almaviva, who, it has been assumed, is in his twenties.
  • Trickster Archetype: Figaro
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Bartolo
  • Wife Husbandry

Alternative Title(s):

The Barber Of Seville