Zipping through Paisiello’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (1782)
When this earlier Barbiere (also based on Beaumarchais’ play) was mentioned on that long list of operas I commented on before I assumed it couldn’t be terrible. I made time to watch/listen to it and here’s my informed verdict:
Mildly exciting but very listenable and some really nice bits – Almaviva’s wooing cavatina Saper bramate and a couple of Rosina’s arias. No Figaro arias! (although he has at least one good duet early on with Almaviva). There is also a much less exciting Calunnia and a different one for where Contro un cuor (Rosina’s music lesson aria) comes (Gia riede primavera – amico Wolfie wrote his own version which I think is better, but you could see that coming – Schon lacht der holder Frühling) plus a swinging one for Bartolo when he sings to Rosina “one from his youff” which is at least as catchy as Rossini’s. The ensembles aren’t nearly as good as Mozart’s or Rossini’s yet this was immensely popular in its day, moreso than Rossini’s version. Paisiello seems a little unfocused in his writing, compared with these two, as a result the arias go on too long and the dramatic impact is lessened. Rosina is satisfyingly bratty, though.