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The Barber of Seville

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The Barber of Seville

by Cesare Sterbini

Genre: Comedy, Operetta
Format of Original Source: Plot summary
Recommended Adaptation Length: Two Hours

Candidate for Adaptation? Not Likely


Count Almaviva loves Rosina, the ward of Dr. Bartolo, who wishes to marry her himself, but the Count is unable to get an interview with her until it is arranged for by Figaro, the factotum of the place. In spite of Bartolo’s watchfulness, as well as that of Don Basilio, her music-teacher, who is only too willing to serve Bartolo, she succeeds in writing to the Count and telling him that his love is returned. With Figaro’s help the Count gets into the house disguised as a drunken dragoon, but is promptly arrested. The next time he secures admission as a music-teacher upon the pretence that Don Basilio is sick, and has sent him to give Rosina her lesson. He further hoodwinks Bartolo by producing the letter Rosina had written to himself, and promises to persuade her that the letter has been given him by a mistress of the Count, which will break the connection between the two. He secures the coveted interview, and an elopement is planned. The unexpected appearance of Don Basilio, however, upsets the arrangements, and the disconcerted lover makes good his escape. In the mean time Bartolo, who has the letter, shows it to his ward and arouses her jealousy. She thereupon promises to marry her guardian. At the time set for the elopement, the Count and Figaro arrive. A reconciliation is speedily effected, and the Count and Rosina are married just as Bartolo makes his appearance with officers to arrest the Count. After mutual explanations, however, all ends happily.


It’s hard to imagine contemporizing the action of this 200-year old play (what is the equivalent of a “ward” these days?), and harder to imagine retaining its original context, or to look at Rossini’s version, only to replace the music with something else, just for change’s sake.  Still, there are some recent reboots of “The Marriage of Figaro” and you might find your way to a similar fresh take on this libretto or Beaumarchais’ original play.


A word of caution: This plot summary was written by 19th-century literary critic George Upton, who often mixes personal opinion with summation. You would be advised to consult the original source material, if the general plot appeals to you.


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