People who have never been to an opera or think they
know nothing about it, know at least one aria: the "Largo al
factotum" from Rossini's II BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA— The Barber of Seville.
It's the ultimate tongue-twisting patter song (where would Gilbert &
Sullivan be without it?) and it comes early in the opera: its the opera's
centerpiece: "Figaro here! Figaro there! Figaro up! Figaro down!"
Rossini's opera, with a libretto by Cesare Sterbini, was a musicalization of
the first of three plays featuring the barber Figaro and his master, the Count
Almaviva, by the 18th-century French playwright Pierre Augustin Caron de
Beaumarchais. Everyone wants a piece of this clever barber, and it's the nature
of farcical hysteria that the hero has to be in more than one place at a time.
The Barber of Seville may not have the deep humanity of Mozart's Marriage of
Figaro, or Mozart's profound musicality, but it's a dazzling and hilarious
concoction—one of the most delightful comic musicals the opera-going public
ever took to its collective heart. By: Lloyd Schwartz, Classical Music Editor
of the Boston Phoenix and classical music critic for NPR.