Cadie J. Bryan
Cadie J. Bryan
Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Librettist: Cesare Sterbini
Premiere Date: February 20, 1816, Teatro Argentina, Rome
“Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!”
Everyone’s favorite barber pulls all the levers in this comedic romp featuring a fiery young girl, her lecherous old guardian, and a smitten young nobleman. It’s all up to the wily Figaro to stay one step ahead of the shenanigans, and see to it that true love wins in the end. From the famous overture to its rapid-fire vocalism, this laugh-out-loud opera is a winner that works its charms on people of all ages.
Performed in Italian with English supertitles
photo: Kelly & Massa
Gioachino Rossini was born in Pesaro, Italy, on February 29, 1792 (a leap year). For a time his parents earned a living traveling from one small opera house to another-his mother as a singer and his father as a horn player in the orchestra. He was occasionally left behind with his grandmother and his aunt in Pesaro, and he had only a little education in reading, writing, grammar and arithmetic. Much of the time he ran wild.
When Gioachino was 12, his parents ended their travels and settled in Bologna. The boy studied music with a talented priest. He also began to play the violin and viola and to compose sonatas and other pieces. Because of his beautiful singing voice, he was often invited to sing in churches in Bologna, and he was soon able to earn extra money playing harpsichord for opera companies in and around Bologna.Read More
At 14, he began more formal music studies at the Conservatory. Although he rebelled against the strict textbook rules for music, he was a good student and even received a gold medal. At the end of his first year, he was chosen to write a cantata that was performed in public. Unfortunately, he had to leave the Conservatory after four years in order to earn money for his family. All his life he was to regret the fact that he did not receive more musical training.
Rossini’s first paid composition was a one-act comic opera for a theatre in Venice. The Marriage Contract, written in less than a week, earned him one hundred dollars – at the time, an enormous sum for the 19-year-old. The opera was a success, and he kept writing. His first major success came in 1812 with The Touchtone, which used musical pieces from his earlier opera. This comic opera was performed over 50 times in its first season alone. As a result of its success, he was paid to write three more operas for Venice. Speed was one of Rossini’s most notable characteristics as a composer – he had actually written five operas in that one year! Rossini’s first serious opera, Tancredi (its overture borrowed from The Touchtone) opened in Venice in 1813, and became popular throughout Italy, Europe, and North and South America. With his comic opera The Italian Girl in Algiers, the 21 year-old Rossini became the hit of Venice. Emperor Aurelian in Palmyra, and The Turk in Italy followed.
The Barber of Seville was commissioned by the impresario of the Teatro Argentina at the end of 1815, when Rossini was nearly 24 years of age. In deference to Giovanni Paisiello, a popular Italian composer who in 1782 had himself based an opera on the Beaumarchais play, Rossini called his own work Almaviva.
Rossini gave his name to many recipes, including a very famous dish called Tournedos Rossini. Great chefs dedicated dishes to him, such as Poached Eggs alia Rossini, Chicken alia Rossini, and Filet of Sole alia Rossini. A dessert dedicated to William Tell was a tart served on the opera’s 1829 Paris opening night. Of course, it was an apple tart decorated with an apple pierced by a sugar arrow alongside a sugar crossbow.
Active in social and cultural affairs, Rossini remained in his later years as a Viennese newspaper had earlier described him as, “Highly accomplished, of agreeable manner and pleasant appearance, full of wit and fun, cheerful, obliges, courteous, and most accessible. He is much in society, and charms everyone by his simple unassuming style.” Thus we can see that Rossini was a person not unlike Figaro himself: resourceful, quick-witted, and friendly to all. By this time, of course, Rossini was enjoying the wealth he had earned by all his industry; portraits show him as plump, with a simple, kindly face, and a humorous twinkle in his eyes, looking rather like a prosperous businessman in his Sunday suit and wig!
After a final illness, Rossini died in his summer home in Passy, outside Paris, on November 13, 1868. He was buried in Paris at a magnificent funeral attended by many admirers and dignitaries. Later, at the request of the Italian government, his body was moved to the Church of Santa Croce in Florence. After providing for his wife, he left most of his wealth to start a conservatory of music at Pesaro, his birthplace in Italy.
Arthur Fagen has been the Carl and Sally Gable music director at The Atlanta Opera since 2010, and continues to be in great demand as a conductor of symphony and opera both in Europe and the United States. He is a regular guest at the most prestigious opera houses, concert halls, and music festivals at home and abroad, and his career has been marked by a string of notable appearances including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Staatsoper Berlin, Munich State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and the New York City Opera.
A former assistant of Christoph von Dohnanyi (Frankfurt Opera) and James Levine (Metropolitan Opera), he served as principal conductor in Kassel and Brunswick, as chief conductor of the Flanders Opera of Antwerp and Ghent, as music director of the Queens Symphony Orchestra, and as a member of the conducting staff of the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Fagen was born in New York and studied with Laszlo Halasz, Max Rudolf (Curtis Institute) and Hans Swarowsky. Fagen has an opera repertoire of more than 75 works and has recorded for Naxos and BMG. The recent Naxos recording of Martinůs works was awarded Editor’s Choice in the March 2010 issue of Gramophone Magazine.
Michael Shell’s “visionary” and “masterful storytelling” (Opera News) is steadily leading him to be one of the most sought after directors in the United States. His “thoughtful and detailed score study” (Opera Today) is shown in character development and relationships onstage as well as the complete visual world he creates.
Michael has directed productions for Atlanta Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Opera Omaha, Opera San Jose, Opera Tampa, Opera North, Virginia Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Wexford Festival Opera, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. He made his international directing debut at the Wexford Festival Opera in 2010 with a production of “Winners,” by American composer Richard Wargo and returned the next fall to direct Double Trouble – Trouble in Tahiti & The Telephone. He has written and directed three cabarets, including All About Love and The Glamorous Life – A group therapy session for Opera Singers, both for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.Read More
Michael holds a BM and MM in Music/Vocal Performance from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He was a Corbett Scholar at The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, as well as studying Acting and Scene Study on a school awarded scholarship at the internationally renowned H.B. Studios in NYC. He has been a guest faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Florida State University and Webster University, St. Louis, teaching Opera Workshop and directing Undergraduate Opera Workshop performances. In addition, he has been guest director at The A.J.Fletcher Opera Institute, Oklahoma University and is a frequent guest director at Indiana University. He has been a guest faculty member for the Summer Opera Program in Tel Aviv in 2018 and 2019. Michael was recently appointed as Associate Professor and Resident Stage Director at Indiana Universities Jacobs School of Music teaching Acting, opera workshop, and directing main-stage productions.