Barber Of Seville Overture

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  • The Barber of Seville, Italian Il barbiere di Siviglia, comic opera in two acts by Italian composer Gioachino Rossini (libretto in Italian by Cesare Sterbini) that was first performed under the title Almaviva o sia l’inutile precauzione (Almaviva; or, The Useless Precaution) at the Teatro Argentina in Rome on February 20, 1816. With a plot based on Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais’s.
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In fact, Rossini’s Overture to the Barber of Seville was also used for his opera Queen Elizabeth. In any case, this sparkling overture seems to complement the Barber of Seville very well, serving as a perfect prelude to his immortal comedy. For our purposes, I am using the Italian edition called Sinfonia, and will refer to rehearsal numbers. Rossini, Giacchino Barber of Seville Overture Sheet music for Viola - 8notes.com.

Rossini's Barber of Seville Overture

An overture is the opening music piece for an Opera, Broadway show, or Musical Theater. Overtures incorporate musical themes that are heard throughout the larger production. This first example of an overture is from Rossini's opera 'The Barber of Seville.' If you watch cartoons on television, you may recognize this overture from the Bugs Bunny cartoon 'The Rabbit of Seville.'

Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture

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Sometimes overtures are written for special occasions. Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky wrote his 1812 overture to be performed at events meant to celebrate Russian nationalistic pride. Nowadays, we usually hear this overture during fireworks celebrations on the Fourth of July. This overture is unique in that it uses real cannons as one of the 'instruments.'

Mendelssohn's Overture to 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

Overtures can also introduce musical theater productions and plays. This is an example of an overture to Shakespeare's play 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' composed by Felix Mendelssohn. This performance is led by the very famous conductor, Seiji Ozawa, who for most of his career was Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Maestro Ozawa is a recent Kennedy Center honoree and an entire concert hall at Tanglewood has been named in his honor.

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Gioachino Rossini: The Barber of Seville Overture

Context

Gioachino Rossini’s highly popular comic opera, The Barber of Seville was premiered on 20th February 1816 at the Teatro Argentina in Rome. The libretto for the opera was based on Pierre Beaumarchais’s comedy Le Barbier de Séville (1775). Rossini composed some of the most engaging operas of all time, with The Barber of Seville being regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy within music – “the opera buffa of all opere buffe!”

The Music

The original Overture for The Barber of Seville was mysteriously lost after its premiere in 1816. However, Rossini, armed with a chest of musical delights not yet used, recycled some of his old opera themes and created what we now know today as the Overture to The Barber of Seville.

Therefore, similarly to that of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro Overture, Rossini’s new opener bears absolutely no musical resemblance to that of any of the opera’s music. This can sometimes prove a hard sell for the composer when the music didn’t represent the product, however the quirky Overture became one of his staple works, with it often being heard as a stand-alone concert piece.

Opening with a fanfare that turns into a short musical exchange between the winds and strings, the opening is in typical Rossini style. Through this slow movement there is a real element of suppressed energy that just wants to burst out. A repeat of the opening fanfare line leads the orchestra into the much-anticipated faster section.

Fast string movement builds the excitement when the material is then passed onto the flourishing winds. Chromatic movement colours the fast moving harmonic language in the Overture, which leaves Rossini to lay the foundations for his iconic dynamic builds.

Wind and horn solos dominate the next section with a real light touch dominating the character of this section. The tempo picks up again with the decorations becoming tighter and more exciting. A sequence of small pauses are heard to break the tension before a reprise of the opening material is heard.

Rossini builds the dynamic up, teasing the listener every time the music begins to swell but comes right back down again. The tempo builds again as the orchestra begins to unite for the final few bars of this exhilarating Overture. Descending chromatic movement dominates the tension building as repetitive strings play alternating lines that leads the Overture to a rousing finish.

Barber Of Seville Overture Cello Sheet Music

Final Thoughts

There is a reason why Rossini’s Overtures are some of his finest examples of orchestral writing. Even when the musical material bears no effect on the actual opera, it has still become one of his most iconic works. It has been arranged numerous times over the years for different ensembles, with it being a staple in wind and brass band repertory also. A thrilling open to what was to be his most-loved opera.

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Ⓒ Alex Burns

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Barber Of Seville Overture Program Notes

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Barber Of Seville Overture Score

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