Overture to the Barber of Seville (1816)
Giochino Rossini (1792-1868)
Born in Pesaro in Italy the son of two professional musicians, Rossini spent much of his life in Paris. He was the most popular and successful opera composer of his time, composing 40 operas before he abruptly retired from the opera house, a wealthy man aged only 37. The Barber of Seville is based on the first of a pair of plays by Beaumarchais, the other being The Marriage of Figaro. Belying its popularity today, the opera had a chequered beginning. At the premiere a singer fell flat on his face, a cat caused mayhem on stage and the tenor improvised some Spanish guitar songs in his main scene. As well as all this, Rossini lost the overture shortly before the premiere and replaced it with one already used in two previous operas! Unsurprisingly it bears no relationship to the music or plot of the opera, but has become as popular as the opera itself.