The Barber of Seville is Rossini’s comic masterpiece – a prequel to The Marriage of Figaro and an opera full of energy and instantly recognisable numbers. If you’re not familiar with the story, let us help you out with our handy summary!
In The Barber of Seville, the audience is catapulted into the romance of Rosina and the Count Almaviva – and the farcical attempts of Rosina’s guardian, Dr. Bartolo, to thwart the romance and marry her himself. Scroll down for the full story below.
There’s nothing quite like experiencing the opera at Tobacco Factory Theatres. The intimate Factory Theatre puts you right at the heart of the action, with no barrier between yourself and these world-class singers and orchestra.
First time at the opera? Take a look at our beginner’s guide!
The Barber of Seville: The Story
Count Almaviva is a Spanish nobleman who is in love with Rosina. However Rosina’s guardian, the old physician Dr Bartolo, has plans to marry Rosina himself and get his hands on her money. Almaviva has followed Rosina from Madrid to Seville, disguised as a poor student called Lindoro.
Outside Dr Bartolo’s house, Almaviva serenades Rosina. The serenade produces no response, so Almaviva enlists the help of Figaro, a barber who prides himself on his ability to manage the affairs of the city. Figaro turns out to be a general factotum (servant) to the Bartolo household, with easy access to the house.
Rumours of Almaviva’s interest in Rosina have reach Bartolo’s ears and he decides he must waste no time in marrying her himself. He gives strict instructions to the servants that while he is out, no one should gain admittance to the house.
Figaro devises a plan whereby Almaviva can gain access to the household: he must pretend to be a drunken soldier lodging at Dr Bartolo’s.
Figaro makes his way into Dr Bartolo’s home and manages a brief meeting with Rosina before Bartolo appears. Bartolo questions Rosina about her meeting with Figaro. When Rosina’s singing teacher Don Basilio arrives, Bartolo brings him up to date on the situation with Rosina. Figaro overhears this and starts to prepare the ground for ‘Lindoro’, but soon realises that Rosina is already ahead of him…
Bartolo suspects Rosina of writing a letter to ‘Lindoro’; when she protests her innocence, he warns her to find more plausible excuses for a man of his standing.
Almaviva, now disguised as a soldier, arrives to take up his ‘lodging’ in Bartolo’s house. Rosina is delighted when he reveals that he is really her secret admirer. Bartolo’s annoyance at Almaviva’s drunken behaviour causes such a row that the militia are called by the neighbours. Almaviva narrowly escapes arrest, much to Bartolo’s annoyance.
Assuming yet another disguise, Almaviva enters the house as Don Alonso, a music teacher who has come to give Rosina her music lesson in place of Don Basilio, who, he claims, has suddenly fallen ill. To gain Bartolo’s trust, Don Alonso reveals that he has intercepted a note from Almaviva to Rosina. Bartolo fetches Rosina for her lesson. While Bartolo dozes, Rosina and ‘Lindoro’ express their love and make plans to elope that night.
Figaro arrives to shave Bartolo and lures him away from the music room. All is going to plan until Don Basilio unexpectedly appears, but Figaro quickly pays him off. Bartolo, however, has not been entirely duped, and discovers Almaviva’s disguise. The game seems to be up for the lovers…
When Bartolo discovers that Basilio has never heard of Alonso, he decides to marry Rosina without delay. He confronts Rosina with a letter she addressed to ‘Lindoro’.
Following a violent thunderstorm, Figaro and Almaviva climb into the house. They are confronted by Rosina who is angry at being ‘used’ by ‘Lindoro’ – until she learns that he is in fact Almaviva and falls willingly into his arms. Figaro is anxious for the lovers to leave, but they discover they are unable to make their escape because Bartolo has removed the ladder.
Basilio returns with a notary who is ready to marry Bartolo and Rosina, but a bribe and threats easily persuade Basilio to witness instead the marriage of Rosina to Almaviva. Bartolo and the magistrate appear too late and Bartolo is forced to acknowledge he has lost Rosina.
This joyfully exuberant show runs from Wed 18 September – Sat 05 October at Tobacco Factory Theatres, with tickets from only £12. Visit the main show page for more info and to book tickets.