Il barbiere di Siviglia and the Transformation of a Tradition
Il barbiere di Siviglia was not, in its earliest years, Gioachino Rossini’s best-liked opera. Its arrival at classic status came rather later, at a time, ironically, when Rossini’s general stock was beginning to fall. Today one accepts its status but tends to overlook the radical impact it had at that time. In 1816 Rossini’s Figaro shocked and stirred a largely unsuspecting public. Here, in its newest manifestation in Figaro’s “Largo al factotum,” was the embodiment of the old driving force itself, the libidinous élan vital which underpins much that is innovative and youthful in human affairs. In his book on Rossini, Lord George Harcourt Johnstone Derwent spent no more than a couple of pages on Il barbiere di Siviglia. The forms Rossini had evolved for deployment in opera buffa and in opera seria are used in Il barbiere di Siviglia both to contain the comedy and to furnish the characters.
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