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“Barber” by the Numbers

From sets to singers, so much goes into each  production on Lyric's stage-here are just a few of the statistics that make the brand-new Barber of Seville so special!

Lyric's new production of Rossini's classic romantic farce The Barber of Seville  is a marvel, with even scene changes earning applause from the audience. From sets to singers, so much goes into each  production on Lyric's stage—here are just a few of the statistics that make the brand-new Barber of Seville  so special!


300 gallons of water to fill up the pool in Dr. Bartolo's house in Act 1. And it takes 4 hours to change the water for each performance.


26 (at least!)  "Figaros" in the famous "Largo al factotum" aria (Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!)


63 musicians in Barber's pit orchestra-including a guitar and harpsichord!


47 absolutely fabulous hats


22 swords wielded by Almaviva and the soldiers


20 Lyric Opera Chorus members doubling as Almaviva's band and as soldiers


5 beautiful wrought iron chandeliers


3 disguises Almaviva undertakes in his wooing of Rosina


1 romantic dip


0 opportunities to see Nathan Gunn take off his shirt. But he does rock a deep v!


5 performances left! Don't miss the best Barber ever!


Opera 101 Overtures: Let’s start at the very beginning…

The overture to The Barber of Seville is one of the most recognizable pieces of music in the world. But what is an overture? Read on for a brief introduction with musical examples!


When you come to the new production of Rossini's The Barber of Seville here at Lyric, the very first notes that you will hear from conductor Michele Mariotti (pictured above) and the Lyric Opera Orchestra are some of the most famous in classical music:


(Sir Georg Solti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the overture to Rossini's The Barber of Seville)

Rossini's overture to The Barber of Seville is instantly recognizable to almost anyone who has watched a movie or TV show at some point in their life. (Read more about Rossini and pop culture here).

But what exactly is an overture? Here's a very brief introduction to this musical form.

The overture is simply an instrumental piece that plays before the start of the opera or one of its acts. In opera's early days, many overtures were considered incidental music that played before the audience was even seated. 

This was still the case during Mozart's era. Some of his most famous overtures, The Marriage of Figaro (1786) and Don Giovanni  (1787), might not have even been heard by the audience, who instead were most likely milling around chatting and eating before the official start of the opera.


(Herbert von Karajan leads the Vienna Philharmonic in the overture to Mozart's Don Giovanni)

However, this practice quickly changed. Starting in the early 1800s, as Beethoven and Rossini were rising to prominence, the overture became and an essential part of the opera and something to be appreciated by an attentive audience. Beethoven only wrote one opera, Fidelio (first premiered in 1805), but he actually composed four different versions of the overture until he finally had one that he deemed suitable.


(Leonard Bernstein leads the Bavarian Broadcast Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3)

Unlike Beethoven, Rossini wrote with astonishing speed, sometimes writing complete operas within a matter of weeks and frequently borrowing from himself to write his crowd-pleasing overtures. In fact, the famous tunes in The Barber of Seville's overture aren't heard in the rest of the opera. Rossini simply borrowed some melodies from two previous compositions: Aureliano in Palmira and Elizabeth, Queen of England.

Later in the 19th century, opera masters Wagner and Verdi truly elevated the overture to something magnificent,  writing atmospheric introductions that also explicitly included the melodies that you were about to hear. Prime examples of this are Wagner's The Flying Dutchman and Verdi's La Forza del Destino, both of which basically have the same function as today's movie previews.  


(Sir Georg Solti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Wagner's overture to The Flying Dutchman)


(Riccardo Muti leads the Vienna Philharmonic in Verdi's overture to La Forza del Destino)

As the Romantic era wore on, some composers started using the term overture to indicate any standalone orchestral piece. Probably the most famous of these is Tchaikovsky's blockbuster 1812 Overture, written to commemorate Russia's defeat of Napoleon's Grande Armée, which calls for a battery of percussion including cannons.


(Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra perform at the BBC Proms)

In the 20th century, overtures continued to be an integral part of musical theater works, with notable examples such as the overtures to Leonard Bernstein's Candide and Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! becoming famous in their own right.


(Overture to Oklahoma!  from the soundtrack to the 1955 film adaptation)

Photo credit: Andrew Cioffi/Lyric Opera of Chicago

(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)


Renée Fleming conquers the world 111.5 million people at a time

It seems the whole world is talking about Lyric creative consultant Renée Fleming performing at the Super Bowl on February 2. Here are some highlights of all the buzz.

It seems the whole world is talking about Lyric creative consultant Renée Fleming performing at the Super Bowl on February 2—in fact, there was so much chatter in the media and across the internet that it would take days to read it all!

This year's Super Bowl was watched by a record-setting audience of 111.5 million people, and Renée's rendition received universal acclaim. The audience was floored by her performance, with USA Today saying she "absolutely nailed" the National Anthem and  calling for "a rule that playoff anthems only be performed by classically trained musicians."

Relive the magic!


News coverage highlights:

Reaction from the Twitterverse:



And here was the social media impact from Lyric's corner of the world:



Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography

Nathan Gunn – Behind the “Barber”

Barihunk Nathan Gunn was on WTTW's Chicago Tonight on February 5 to talk with Phil Ponce about performing one of his signature roles as the ever-resourceful Figaro in Lyric's current production of The Barber of Seville


Barihunk Nathan Gunn was on WTTW's Chicago Tonight on February 5 to talk with Phil Ponce about performing one of his signature roles as the ever-resourceful Figaro in Lyric's current production of The Barber of Seville (on stage through February 28). He also discussed his role at the School of Music at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the strong Midwestern roots that have led to his making Champaign his home base, and how much he enjoys collaborating with the great Mandy Patinkin. 

You can watch the entire interview, plus a performance of "Largo al Factotum" from Barber (accompanied by Lyric's Bill Billingham)  below.


And if you can't get enough Gunn, here's bonus footage of him performing "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" 


Photo credit: Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago


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