Rossini: Barber of Seville Overture

My sister is going to see The Barber of Seville this summer and I said she must research the story and background of the opera before going as it makes it so much more enjoyable. It is therefore ironic that only 4 weeks before I play the overture with the BHSO tonight, I am doing my own research.

The opera is a comedy, and many may know that Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, which was written before The Barber of Seville, was the prequel to the opera. However, one thing that surprised me was that Rossini wasn’t the original composer of the music to this opera. It was originally written by Paisello and premiered in 1782 a whole ten years before Rossini was even born. Paisello was a famous Italian classical composer at the time and had a very loyal following. He was also a contemporary of Mozart.

When a young and unknown Rossini boldly asked Paisello permission to rewrite the music for The Barber of Seville, Paisello agreed, arrogantly assuming that no one could better his version. At Rossini’s premier it was reported that loyal devotees of Paisello tried to sabotage the performance. Despite the protestors’ attempt, it is Rossini’s version of The Barber of Seville that has gone on to be one of the most globally recognised and loved operatic  scores, and it is Paisello’s version that is almost unknown (for those who are interested you can still listen to Paisello’s version).

So tonight, as the conductor lifts his baton and gives 2 up beats and we play the overture, I can’t help but think back to when the young Rossini took on the enormous task to rewrite the music for an already popular opera. I admire his braveness and will enjoy playing this well-known and loved opening to a truly entertaining opera.

Louise Henkel, Violin 2