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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.)


An Insider's Guide to THE BARBER OF SEVILLE

Video and audio previews, articles, and more at Lyric's Insider's Guide to The Barber of Seville.

Below is your complete guide to all things Barber. Lyric Opera of Chicago's brand-new production of The Barber of Seville  runs February 1-28. 


Watch Lyric's official video trailer for The Barber of Seville  (above). 

The barber Figaro (Nathan Gunn) is the ultimate fixer, running around solving everyone's problems and boasting about it, "Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!" He involves himself in a love triangle, helping Count Almaviva (Alek Shrader) woo the beautiful Rosina (Isabel Leonard) away from her old lecherous guardian Dr. Bartolo, who keeps her under lock and key. All hell breaks loose not once but twice—first, when Almaviva disguises himself as a drunken soldier, and then when he presents himself as a replacement for Rosina's supposedly indisposed music teacher, Don Basilio. Find out who gets the girl in this delightful farce! Read the complete plot synopsis.


Watch "Patter Up!" with Isabel Leonard, who makes her Lyric debut as Rosina (above).


Watch a preview with general director Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming (above).


Figaro pays a visit to Dr. Opera (above). 

Rossini's Biggest Hit
By Jack Zimmerman
According to opera lore, Gioachino Rossini liked to compose in bed. Occasionally he’d drop a sheet of completed manuscript on the floor, and rather than throw back the covers and get up to retrieve it, he’d simply compose a new page. The composing-in-bed story sounds farfetched, until you listen to Rossini’s music. Just a few bars of Il barbiere di Siviglia are all it takes to realize that music simply poured out of the man. READ MORE

A Conversation with Director Rob Ashford
By Roger Pines
This production marks your eagerly awaited operatic debut. Have you been going to opera most of your life, or are you a new convert?
When I was in college in Pittsburgh, I danced in the corps de ballet at Pittsburgh Opera – that was my first taste of it. Then, when I moved to New York, one of my first jobs was dancing at the Met for a year. My first show there was Hal Prince’s production of Faust. I feel as if my operatic education happened in the Met canteen, sitting with other dancers and seeing everyone in costume – that was where I felt I began to learn. READ MORE

Learn more about Rossini as a foodie and Rossini's music in pop culture

The Barber of Seville Discovery Series

Jack-of-all-trades barber gets into the thick of things with a starry-eyed young couple and a lecherous old uncle. Alek Shrader (Almaviva), Isabel Leonard (Rosina), and conductor Michele Mariotti talk about Rossini’s comedic gift to us all.

Download (right click and "Save Target As" / "Save Link As")

The Barber of Seville Audio Preview

Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics.



“Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!” Rossini and Pop Culture

Think you haven't heard Rossini? Think again. The composer currently has more than 500 credits (and counting!) on the Internet Movie Database. Here are just a handful of examples of Rossini's music in pop culture - proving that even centuries later, his work is timeless.


Think you haven't heard Rossini? Think again. Rossini might have given up on composing relatively early in his life (read more about his post-retirement gastronomic pursuits), but his music lives on…the composer currently has more than 500 credits (and counting!) on the Internet Movie Database.

Here are just a handful of examples of Rossini's music in pop culture - proving that even centuries later, his work is timeless. To hear one of Rossini's greatest works live on stage, do not miss The Barber of Seville at Lyric, running from February 1 to 28. 

The Barber of Seville 

Undoubtedly Rossini's most popular opera, excerpts from the comic masterpiece The Barber of Seville have been feature in films, TV shows, and cartoons for decades.

Perhaps the most recognizable example is the Looney Tunes classic "Rabbit of Seville." Rossini's overture provides the backdrop for a classic Bugs Bunny-Elmer Fudd confrontation.


However, this isn't the only time Bugs encountered Rossini. The famous "Largo al Factotum" aria is prominently featured in "Long Haired Hare," when Bugs Bunny's banjo distracts irritable opera singer Giovanni Jones.


For those of who love Seinfeld, one of the sitcom's most famous episodes couples the drama of Jerry attempting to change barbers with music from the overture.


The Barber of Seville is not just for cartoons and comedy. One of the opera's most famous arias was used in Citizen Kane. Newspaper magnate and megalomaniac Charles Foster Kane attempts to mold his second wife into an opera star, with disastrous results, perfectly illustrated by the use of Rosina's famous aria, "Una voce poco fa."


William Tell 

Vying with The Barber of Seville as the most-referenced Rossini composition is the overture to William Tell, the composer's last opera. It was the famous theme song for The Lone Ranger series on radio and later on television-so much so that you can't hear this music without thinking of galloping horses. "Hi-ho, Silver, away!"


And going back to the early days of Disney, Mickey Mouse channeled Rossini with the short "The Band Concert," released in 1935.



The Thieving Magpie  

Featuring a catchy waltz tune, The Thieving Magpie overture has been used in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, the cult cartoon favorite Ren & Stimpy, and more. Recently, the BBC's Sherlock-a modern adaptation of the classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories-made brilliant use of the overture in a robbery scene.  


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


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