Seville Operas - The Barber of Seville

The Barber of Seville - Rossini

by Fiona Flores Watson

First performed in Rome in 1815, this comic opera set in 17th century Seville is about a barber named Figaro.

A cunning and resourceful fellow, Figaro helps the free-spirited Count Almaviva to win over the beautiful orphan Rosina, against the wishes of her guardian Bartolo. Figaro's elaborate subterfuges to aid the Count, which involve donning disguises and taking on false identities, result in a rollercoaster ride of secret trysts and near-disasters, but naturally in the end true love wins out, and the Count and Rosina wind up together.

Also known as The Useless Precaution, this was the first opera sung in Italian in New York, in 1825. Written in two acts, it is sometimes split into three. Rossini's opera was based on a farce by French author Beaumarchais, who in turn was inspired to create his Figaro by a character of the same name from Spanish literature, found in Cervantes' El Celoso Extremeño (The Jealous Extremaduran).

A second play, The Marriage of Figaro, made into an opera by Mozart 30 years earlier, featured the same main characters - Figaro, the Count and Countess.

Seville locations

You can follow a route called The Figaro Myth as part of the Seville, City of Opera programme - on the Seville Tourism app. It has an excellent commentary explaining the background to the story, the locations, the characters, plus of course musical excerpts from the opera. The route includes Figaro's House in Plaza Santo Tomas, where Figaro's house and barber shop was believed to be located (old postcards of Seville say: "Plaza de Santo Tomas y casa del Figaro a la izquierda"), a vibrant and colourful area in the 18th century. You can also listen to an audio commentary on Rosina's Balcony, thought to be in Plaza Alfaro. The route is 1.6km and takes 1 hour 10 minutes.