The Barber of Seville Background

The Barber of Seville Background

The Barber Of Seville is a play by French playwright Pierre Beaurmarchais, and is sometimes known by the title "The Useless Precaution". Its title is thought to be a play on words, and almost a parody of Tirso de Molina's earlier play "El Burlador de Sevilla" or "The Trickster of Seville". It's original music was written by Antoine-Laurent Baudron. It is the first play in a trilogy that also includes "The Marriage Of Figaro" and "The Guilty Mother".

Originally, the play was written as a comic opera. This did not lead to success, and it wass rejected in 1772 by the Comedie-Italienne. Beaumarchais became accustomed to the work being rejected but developed a talent for making quick adaptations and updates, learning from what his critics told him, until he produced something that would be much more favorably received. The final working of the play was written in 1773, but Beaurmarchais had legal problems at the time and it was therefore not performed until 1775, at the Comedie-Francaise in the Tuilleries. The play was a roaring success. It follows a traditional comic pattern and most of the characters seem to be generic comic characters based on those who appear in other works.

The play revolves around a Spanish Count who falls in love at first sight with a girl, Rosine, but he is worried that she only loves him for his money. To make sure that it is he she loves and not his fortune, he disguises himself as a poor college student called Lindor and attempts to woo her. His plan backfires, because Rosine's Guardian, Doctor Bartholo, who keeps her under lock and key in his house, planning to marry her himself. The Count does not know what to do but a chance meeting with his one-time servant, Figaro, provides an opportunity to bring the two together, as Figaro is working as a barber and has access to the doctor's home. After meeting Rozine as a variety of different characters, the play ends with the marriage of Rosine and the Count.

There have been several adaptations of this play as an opera, although Rossini's is the most well-known. Paisiello's opera based on the play was first performed in 1782 but has not endured nearly as well or as universally as the Rossini vesion which debuted in 1816. Other lesser-known adaptations were produced by Isouard (1796), Reinagle and Arnold (1794) and Morlacchi (1816).

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