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
Aided by his servant Fiorello and a troupe of musicians, Count Almaviva (under the assumed name of Lindoro) arrives early in the morning to serenade and hopefully have an assignation with a young girl he has recently seen. His song receives no response. Almaviva is about to depart when he unexpectedly encounters his former servant Figaro, the town barber. Figaro identifies the girl as Rosina, the ward of Dr. Bartolo. Rosina appears on the balcony with a letter for her unknown admirer. She is interrupted by Bartolo but manages to drop the letter off the balcony before he can snatch it from her. The letter requests that her suitor identify himself. Almaviva is frantic about meeting Rosina. Figaro, in his capacity as Bartolo’s barber, offers to help the lovesick Count (for a promise of gold, of course). A regiment is due in town and Figaro suggests that Almaviva disguise himself as a drunken soldier and demand lodging in Bartolo’s house.
Inside Bartolo’s house, Rosina takes delight in her admirer’s voice and resolves that Lindoro will be hers. Figaro manages to enter the house and visit Rosina, but their attempts to talk are frustrated by the appearance of Bartolo and Don Basilio, Rosina’s music teacher, who brings news that Count Almaviva is in town incognito. Don Basilio suggests that slander would be the best way to ruin Count Almaviva, but the nervous Bartolo instead decides to have a marriage contract drawn up between himself and Rosina as soon as possible. The two men leave to organize the contract, and Figaro, who has heard their conversation from a hiding place, immediately informs Rosina of the danger.
As Rosina gives Figaro a note for her lover, Bartolo returns and accuses her of writing to an admirer. He threatens to lock her in, but she defies him. Almaviva, now disguised as a drunken army officer, arrives at the house demanding lodging. Bartolo indignantly claims that he has a certificate of exemption from housing the military, and, as he searches for it, Almaviva slips Rosina a note. Catching sight of this trickery, Bartolo orders Rosina to surrender the note, but she cunningly substitutes a laundry list. Almaviva becomes belligerent, threatening to fight Bartolo, and the whole house is in turmoil. Figaro enters attempting to calm them down. Soon the local militia arrives at the house to restore order, and Almaviva narrowly avoids arrest by secretly identifying himself to the officer in charge. Bartolo is left standing amidst all the activity, amazed and confused.
Bartolo is sitting alone in his study when Almaviva enters in a new disguise. He is now Don Alonso, a music teacher sent to replace the ailing Don Basilio. Bartolo is suspicious, but to allay his fears, “Alonso” shows Bartolo a letter from Rosina to Count Almaviva, claiming that he found it in Almaviva’s lodgings. Fooled again, Bartolo fetches Rosina for her lesson and listens as she performs an air proclaiming that love will surmount all obstacles.
Figaro arrives to shave Bartolo. Bartolo sends him to fetch a towel and Figaro takes this opportunity to steal the key to the balcony, smashing a pile of dishes in the process. This “accident” lures Bartolo away, allowing Figaro to slip the key to the disguised Almaviva. All is going according to plan when suddenly Don Basilio appears. It takes only a small bribe to persuade him to go home and take care of his “fever.” As Figaro covers Bartolo with lather, the Count whispers the escape plans to Rosina during the singing lesson. Almaviva tells her that he and Figaro will come for her at midnight. Bartolo overhears them and accuses Almaviva, Figaro and Rosina of scheming against him. Once everyone has withdrawn, the maid, Berta, is left to reflect on the foolishness of lovers of all ages.
Don Basilio arrives and Bartolo soon discovers that Don Alonso was an imposter. Bartolo realizes that it is more urgent than ever to marry Rosina immediately, and Basilio hurries off in search of a notary to draw up the contract. Meanwhile, Bartolo attempts to make Rosina doubt her lover by producing the letter that she wrote to Lindoro, saying that it was found in Count Almaviva’s lodgings. Clearly, he argues, Lindoro and Figaro are just hirelings for Count Almaviva. In distress, Rosina agrees to give up Lindoro and marry her guardian that very night.
A storm rages outside as Rosina and Bartolo retreat to their quarters. As it subsides, Figaro and Almaviva appear on the balcony, ready to escape with Rosina. Rosina is at first furious, but her anger quickly turns to delight when she finds out that Almaviva and Lindoro are one and the same. Figaro urges the lovers to make their escape quickly, but upon returning to the balcony, they find that their ladder is gone. At that moment, Don Basilio enters with the notary that Bartolo has hastily engaged. Bribed with a valuable ring and threatened with a gun to his head, Don Basilio is persuaded to act as a witness as the notary marries Almaviva and Rosina. Bartolo arrives with the civil guard but it is too late: the lovers have been wed. Almaviva placates Bartolo by allowing him to keep Rosina’s dowry, and all express relief and joy at the happy outcome.
Courtesy of Boston Lyric Opera
A rich young lady and ward of Doctor Bartolo
A young nobleman
Rosina’s music teacher
Dr. Bartolo’s maid
Operas on our mainstage are grand theatrical experiences. You can always expect the unexpected, and for our productions to be presented at the highest quality.
Many operas are in a foreign language. Supertitles are similar to subtitles in a film, except they are projected above the stage. These translations will help you follow what’s happening on stage.
What to Wear
There is no dress code at The Opera and you will see everything from jeans to evening gowns and formal suits. Most people use it as a chance to enjoy dressing up in their own style.
Arriving in Good Time
If you are late, you will be escorted to the nearest late seating area. At intermission ushers will show you to your seat. Plan ahead to arrive with extra time.
Learn about the history of the opera, the composer, and more from artists and opera aficionados. One hour prior to curtain. Free with your ticket!
Familiarizing Yourself with the Story
Because of the foreign languages, classical music, and often complex plots, you will very likely enjoy the performance better if you spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the story and characters in advance. Some people even like to listen to the music in advance and others prefer to let it wash over them during the show and perhaps look it up afterwards.
Actors ﬁrst audition for roles up to a year in advance, or for more experienced artists, directors also invite them to play a role.
Most of the rehearsals are held in our rehearsal hall, and not the actual theatre. The conductor begins orchestra rehearsals about a week and half before opening night. They have four rehearsals with the conductor, and then the singers are added into the mix.
Sets & Costumes
The Atlanta Opera Costume Shop alters the costumes to fit our singers. Sometimes they do have to make costumes if there aren’t enough, or if there is nothing that fits, etc. Once the sets are in place, the cast begins rehearsing at the theatre. The Opera production staff works with staff at the theatre to get all of the lighting and technical aspects of the production together.
Sitzprobe & Dress Rehearsal
The orchestra comes together with the singers in a special rehearsal called sitzprobe. There are no costumes during the sitzprobe, this is mainly to hear the voices with the orchestra. There is a piano dress rehearsal, when the singers rehearse in full costume for the first time so they can get used to wearing them. Finally, all of the pieces are put together for two full dress rehearsals leading up to opening night.
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.