When “The Barber of Seville” opened in 1816 in Rome, a bloody-nosed singer tripped over a trap door, while a stray cat wandered onto the stage, refusing to leave.
Understandably, its composer Gioachino Rossini stayed home for the second night until he was awoken by the sound of applause and cheering.
Despite the gales of laughter produced by the disastrous opening, Rossini’s opera buffa remains his most popular comedy, ranking among the top 10 on most-performed opera lists.
The Santa Fe Opera will stage this comic masterpiece beginning on Saturday, July 2.
Mexican conductor Iván López-Reynoso will make his American debut with a cast that features Joshua Hopkins as the resourceful Figaro and former SFO apprentice singers Emily Fons and Jack Swanson as Rosina and Count Almaviva.
The story follows the escapades of a barber, Figaro, as he assists Count Almaviva (for a handsome fee, of course) in luring the beautiful Rosina away from her lecherous guardian, the grumpy, old Dr. Bartolo.
Figaro sings under her window, claiming he is the poor student Lindoro. The ever-inventive barber suggests sending the count into the household disguised as a drunken soldier. Rosina is determined to meet and conquer her suitor, despite Bartolo’s controlling ways. When Figaro convinces her that she is indeed the beloved of his poor cousin “Lindoro,” she gives Figaro a letter to take to the boy.
Based on a play called “Le Barbier de Séville” by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais, this is the first of three plays about a character called Figaro. The author’s second play, “Le Mariage de Figaro,” was the inspiration for Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”
Rossini’s overture is perfectly matched for a high-speed cartoon chase. Looney Tunes released a classic cartoon episode called the “Rabbit of Seville” created in 1950. After the usual chasing around, Bugs Bunny manages to give Elmer Fudd a clean shave to the soundtrack of Rossini’s overture.
Figaro sings the opera’s best known aria, “Largo al factotum” (“Make way for the servant who does everything”), on his entrance. The music served as a cartoon score for “Tom & Jerry.” Figaro sings his own praises – “Ah, bravo Figaro! Bravo, bravissimo!” – and shows how in demand he is.