Figaro’s entrance aria, “Largo al factotum,” has largely become the defining example of the operatic genre thanks to the memorable repetitions of the barber’s name and its boisterous melody. The tongue-twisting Italian syllables and the speed at which they are sung make this aria a considerably challenging piece in the baritone-singer’s repertoire. Perhaps “factotum” is included in the title of the piece not only to refer to the array of Figaro’s servantly duties, but also to the expanse of technique required from the singer; in Latin, the term means “to do everything” and the soloist is required to do just that. Baritone John Moore (pictured right) who plays Figaro in Opera Omaha’s upcoming production of The Barber of Seville stunned audiences with his incredible rendition of “Largo” at Opera Outdoors on Sept. 11 in Turner Park receiving a rare mid-concert standing ovation.
The clever and self-assured Figaro, whose profession gives this opera its name, helps a lovesick, young count disguise himself as a student, soldier, and music teacher in order to win the heart of the lovely Rosina and thwart the lecherous intentions of her guardian. A comedy through and through, The Barber of Seville guarantees a visually stunning and colorful event for the whole family, one replete with laughter, hijinks, popular melodies, and, of course, a happy ending.
The Barber of Seville had its premiere on February 20, 1816 at the Teatro Argentia in Rome and in 1825 became the first Opera to be sung in Italian in New York City. Versions of the opera had already premiered in the United States in English and French, yet these proved to be considerably less popular than the original, well-rhyming Italian libretto.
Rossini’s headliner was first performed at the Opera Omaha as part of the 1963-64 operatic line-up and since then has been produced in five different seasons on the Orpheum Theater stage. 2015-16 marks the opera’s sixth production in Omaha, making it one of the most popular operas ever to be performed in this Midwestern city.
Leave it to the Critics
Despite its historical popularity (The Barber of Seville is among the world’s 10 most frequently produced operas) Rossini’s now famous comedy began its life onstage as a tremendous flop; the audience showed no hesitation in jeering and making a ruckus during the production itself and may even have contributed to a number of on-stage accidents. Fans of the composer Giovanni Paisiello, it is thought that these obtrusive audience members were protesting what they perceived as Rossini’s unjust appropriation of Paisiello’s own Barber of Seville opera, which had premiered earlier in 1782. Following the second performance, however, Rossini’s luck changed when audience members who were not devoted followers of Paisiello took note of the fluid melodies and skillful composition of the newer opera and insisted on rewarding Rossini with a standing ovation for his work.