The story of the famous factotum of SevilleCast of Characters
Almaviva: a rich count from Madrid
Bartolo: a doctor in Seville
Rosina: Bartolo’s wealthy young ward
Figaro: a barber
Don Basilio: Rosina’s music teacher
Fiorello: Almaviva’s servant
Ambrogio: Bartolo’s servant
Berta: Bartolo’s elderly housekeeper
A square in Seville
Count Almaviva, in love with Rosina, has tried to serenade his love, but she will not appear on the balcony of her room. Rosina is also the secret object of Dr Bartolo’s desires and he guards his ward with a jealous possessiveness. Disappointed, Almaviva is about to give up and leave when the boisterous figure of Figaro arrives, bragging of the demand for his services throughout the city. Figaro numbers Bartolo among his many clients, for whom he (Figaro) is a Jack-of-all-trades and a regular visitor to the house. Almaviva, recognising the usefulness of this, divulges his love for Rosina to Figaro and enlists the latter’s help.
While they are talking, Rosina appears on the balcony and throws a love letter down to the two men below. Notwithstanding the immediate intervention of Dr Bartolo, Almaviva succeeds in obtaining the letter and responds to Rosina with a passionate love song, accompanied by the guitar. In this, he declares his love for her, denies his noble birth and pretends to be a poor but sincere student, “Lindoro”, instead. Since Rosina is unable to return her feelings openly from the balcony, Almaviva decides to go to the house to meet her face-to-face. Figaro restrains Almaviva, counselling him, rather, to present himself to the family in disguise, pretending to be a soldier who is to be billeted in their household. (There is a regiment of soldiers temporarily stationed in the city.) In order that their stratagem should be as plausible as possible, Figaro further suggests that Almaviva should appear to be drunk.
Dr Bartolo’s home
In the Bartolo household, Rosina reflects on this sudden intrusion of “Lindoro” in her life. She decides to do everything necessary to fulfil her wishes and entrusts a love letter to Figaro – who has come, under a pretence, to learn her feelings towards the young “student”. Meanwhile, Bartolo returns and, sensing that a plot is afoot, hastily decides to bring forward his plans to marry his ward himself. He demands to know if Rosina has been writing a letter to someone, as she has ink-stained fingers, but she denies it. Having informed Rosina’s music teacher, Don Basilio, of his decision to marry her as soon as possible, he is alarmed to learn of another difficulty. Count Almaviva, whose affection for Rosina is known, has been seen in the city. Together, they decide the only way to combat this threat is to destroy Almaviva’s reputation by slander. Suddenly, Almaviva arrives at the house disguised as a soldier and he shows Bartolo his orders to be billeted at his home. Rosina arrives at the same time – although her guardian wants her to stay in the background. The “soldier” reveals to Rosina that he is “Lindoro” and passes her a letter. Bartolo sees the letter change hands, but Rosina manages to substitute it with a washing list, prevent him from reading the contents. Finally, soldiers arrive at the door, wanting to know the reason for the uproar in the house. They recognise Almaviva despite his disguise and conduct him away.
Dr Bartolo’s home while Bartolo is musing on the many suspicious things that have been taking place in his home, he receives another strange visitor. It is Figaro, accompanied by a certain “Don Alonso” – ostensibly a master of music – who is standing in for Don Basilio, on account of the latter’s supposed “ill-health”. The “music master” is, of course, none other than Almaviva, who – having managed to persuade the soldiers to release him – is in yet another disguise suggested by Figaro. However, his impersonation of the arrogant “teacher” does not entirely convince the doctor. When Rosina arrives, “Don Alonso” starts to give her a singing lesson, but she instantly recognises his true identity. While they are having their “lesson”, Bartolo – overcoming his initial mistrust – allows himself be shaved by Figaro, who uses the opportunity to steal the key to the balcony. At the crucial point, Don Basilio arrives, but thanks to Almaviva’s charm (and a gift of money) agrees to remain “unwell” and not to inform Bartolo.
Bartolo’s shaving continues and the two lovers are now able to talk without interference. However, notwithstanding the deceptions of Figaro, the suspicious guardian still manages to surprise the two as they are planning Rosina’s escape. Bartolo is certain that “Lindoro” is merely an intermediary sent by Almaviva and convinces Rosina too, who becomes furious at the supposed deception and, in revenge, agrees to marry her guardian instead. Fortunately, a storm later allows Figaro e “Lindoro” to return to the house via the balcony and reassure Rosina that the “student” is really Almaviva himself. While the two lovers exchange declarations of love for each other – further delaying their escape – Figaro notices the arrival of the notary who is due to undertake the formalities of Bartolo’s wedding. Figaro is quick to manipulate the situation to the lovers’ advantage. Rosina and Almaviva present themselves as the bride and groom, while Bartolo arrives to late to prevent their marriage.