Il Barbiere di Siviglia
"Almaviva" that is "The Useless Precaution" with an original libretto seted to music by the up-and-coming young composerThe première (under the title Almaviva, or the Useless Precaution) took place on February 20, 1816, at the Teatro Argentina, Rome. It would become the first Italian opera ever performed in America, premiering at the Park Theater in New York on Nov. 29, 1825.
An opera based on the play had previously been composed by Giovanni Paisiello, and another was composed in 1796 by Nicolas Isouard. Though the work of Paisiello triumphed for a time, Rossini's later version alone has stood the test of time and continues to be a mainstay of operatic repertoire.
Rossini's opera follows the first of the plays from the Figaro trilogy, by French playwright Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, while Mozart's opera Le nozze di Figaro, composed 30 years earlier in 1786, is based on the second part of the Beaumarchais trilogy. The original Beaumarchais version was first performed in 1775, in Paris at the Comédie Française at the Tuileries Palace.
Rossini is well known for his fast work at composition, and true to his style, all the music for Il Barbiere di Siviglia was completed in under three weeks; though the famous overture was actually borrowed from two prior Rossini operas, Aureliano in Palmira and Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra. Barbiere's first performance on February 20, 1816 was a disastrous failure: the audience hissed and jeered throughout, and several on-stage accidents occurred. However, many of the audience were supporters of one of Rossini's rivals who played on "mob mentality" to provoke the rest of the audience to dislike the opera. The second performance met with quite a different fate, becoming a roaring success. It is curious to note that the original French play of Le Barbier de Séville endured a similar story, hated at first only to become a hit within a week.
As a staple of the operatic repertoire, Barber appears on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America, where it appears as Number 5. The role of Rosina, although written for a coloratura contralto and most frequently sung by a coloratura mezzo-soprano, has, in the past and occasionally in more recent times, been sung in transposition by coloratura sopranos such as Maria Callas, Roberta Peters, Gianna d'Angelo, Victoria de los Ángeles, Beverly Sills, Lily Pons, Diana Damrau, Kathleen Battle and Luciana Serra. Famous recent mezzo-soprano Rosinas include Marilyn Horne, Teresa Berganza, Lucia Valentini Terrani, Cecilia Bartoli, Joyce DiDonato, Jennifer Larmore, Elīna Garanča, and Vesselina Kasarova. Famous contralto Rosinas include Ewa Podleś.