The Barber of Seville, Musica a Palazzo
Musica a Palazzo is an association that creates the operatic equivalent of theatre-in-the-round, placing audiences at the heart of the action. Its singers and musicians perform some of the world’s greatest operas, not in a theatre but in the stunning Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto. Located on the banks of Venice’s Grand Canal, the Palazzo is one of the city’s finest examples of baroque design and ornamentation.
Gioacchino Rossini himself could not have wished for a better setting for his most enduring work, The Barber of Seville. Premiered on 20 February 1816 at Rome’s Teatro Argentina, The Barber of Seville takes place in the seventeenth century. Today’s Palazzo, the result of joining the gothic fifteenth century Palazzo Minotto with the eighteenth century Palazzo Barbarigo, conjures up an environment that Rossini’s characters would have felt very much at home in.
The Palazzo also lends itself perfectly to Figaro’s story as he aids and abets his former master, Count Almaviva, in his audacious attempt to win the hand of the beautiful Rosina. The two partners-in-crime weave a web of deceit around Rosina’s jealous guardian, Bartolo, and her suspicious music teacher, Basilio. As Almaviva adopts one disguise after another and his and Figaro’s scheming gets more convoluted, the audience becomes as caught up in the chase as Bartolo and Basilio, following, and almost becoming part of, the drama as it moves from room to room in the magnificent Palazzo.
Somehow the Count and Figaro manage to stay one step ahead of the hapless Bartolo who in the end cannot count even on Basilio’s loyalty; under pain of death, he agrees to add his signature to the marriage contract between Rosina and Almaviva.
Such is the degree to which the audience is involved in the plot that the temptation for those watching on, so close to the performers, to warn Almaviva, Figaro and Rosina of Bartolo and Basilio’s presence is almost impossible to resist.
This is The Barber of Seville as you have never seen or heard it before: a very special way in which to experience the greatest of all operas buffas.