Beethoven called his opera " Leonore," but in order to distinguish it from others bearing that name, it was after wards given its present title. There were four different overtures written for the opera, generally known as the Leonore Overtures, and distinguished only by numbers. One, however, is now often spoken of as the Fidelio Over ture, and was the one written for the final revision of the opera in 1814. It is a brilliant work, beginning with a rather rapid movement, then changing to adagio for a short passage, then again allegro, which we afterward find in Lenore's theme, and a return to the slower tempo. Next we hear a theme which appears in a duet between Rokko and Pizarro; again a brilliant rapid movement be gun by the horn, taken up by clarinets, then the violins join, and finally the whole orchestra. There is a return to the opening phrase for the close.
Throughout the orchestral score we find a free use of trombones to express sinister and gruesome meaning. During Don Pizarro's aria in the first act, "Ha! Welch eim Augenblick," which is a masterpiece of its kind, the trombones first enter and impress us with the dark intent of Pizarro, and the horror of the situation. Even though after the first three performances Fidelio was withdrawn, it has, since its revision in 1814, been heard everywhere, and today is called one of the most exquisite we possess. " The music is so grand and sublime, so passionate and deep, that it enters into the heart of the hearer. The libretto is also full of the highest and most beautiful feeling." " Il Barbiere di Siviglia," or " The Barber of Seville," an opera buffa in two acts, with text by Sterbini, a Roman poet, founded on the celebrated trilogy of Beaumarchais, with music by Gioachino Antonio Rossini, was first pre sented at the Argentina Theatre in Rome, Feb. 5, 1816. It was at first called " Almaviva, or the Useless Precau tion " to distinguish it from Paisiello's " Barber of Seville." Rosina.
Doctor Bartolo, Rosina's guardian.
Basilio, a music master.
Bertha, Rosina's governess.
Figaro, the barber.
Fiorello, a servant.
A Notary, chorus of musicians, chorus of soldiers.
The scene is laid in Seville. Count Almaviva, posing as one Lindoro, is seriously in love with Rosina. As frequently occurs in operas, however, her guardian wishes to marry her himself. She is watched so jealously by Bartolo and his friend, Don Basilio, her music master, that for some time she cannot find opportunity to bestow as much as a smile upon the Count in reward for his persistent serenading. Finally, she manages to send him a letter confessing that she returns his love and, tired of being watched and scolded, she is entirely disposed to break her chains. Through the good offices of the gay and clever barber, Figaro, the lover finally secures entrance to the house of the adored one in the disguise of a drunken soldier with a billet of quartering. His elaborate scheme comes to naught, however, for he is arrested by the guard. A second time he gains admittance
as a music teacher who has come to take the place of the fever-stricken Don Basilio. He lights upon a plan whereby he fancies he may gain Bartolo's confidence. He shows him Rosina's letter with the suggestion that she be told that it was secured from a mistress of the Count and that her cavalier must be making light of her, if he is passing her letters about in such fashion. He himself offers to carry out this suggestion but Don Basilio suddenly appears upon the scene, to the tremendous confusion of the plotting lover. A purse of gold persuades him that he is really ill and he goes home. The Count follows his example as soon as he has managed to plan an elopement with Rosina.
The letter the Count was to have shown Rosina has remained in Bartolo's possession and he seizes the first opportunity to show it to her and, as he hoped, it rouses her jealousy. In her anger and disappointment, she discloses everything and promises to marry Bartolo instead of Lindoro. When the time set for the elopement arrives, the bridegroom and Figaro appear and their explanations, chief among which is the fact that Count Almaviva and Lindoro are one and the same, are so satisfactory that a reconciliation is easily effected and the happy lovers are united by a notary, just as Bartolo and his officers come to arrest the Count. Even the fussy old doctor concludes to make the best of things and gives them his blessing, which makes it possible for the curtain to descend joyously.
This is the best of Rossini's operas in lighter vein and it has become an established favorite with all nations. In it is displayed the composer's wonderful melodic genius. Both words and music are so admirably paired that the descrip tion of " operatic champagne " which has been applied to "The Barber" is undeniably apt. The great work was written in a fortnight. Sterbini lived for the time in the same house, and literally fitted words to the music. In less than thirty days it was staged, but its first perform ance was a doleful one for so sprightly and entertaining an opera. A number of mishaps occurred. Garcia, the tenor, who played the role of Count Almaviva, used on the opening night a Spanish air of his own for the serenade sung under Rosina's window, and insisted upon accompanying himself on a guitar. A string broke, and until it could be replaced Rosina must needs wait in her casement, and the audience, even more impatient in their seats, until the lover could resume his plaint to the guitar accompaniment. That was the last time Garcia's song was used, for between the first and second performances Rossini composed the serenade we now hear. Don Basilio was not entirely acquainted with the stage settings, and as he was entering for his great bass solo " Calumnia," fell over a trap door and had to go through his part with a handkerchief held to his nose.