The Opening Night of the Barber of Seville

Faculty Sponsor

Katharina Uhde


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 2017


Gioachino Rossini’s Barber of Seville (1813), composed in just three weeks, is one of the most popular operas today. However, its first performance was not so successful. The opera’s premiere on 20 February 1816 was a complete and utter disaster. Some of the reasons include underprepared performers, an audience that was favoring the version of Rossini’s contemporary, Giovanni Paisiello, and a mysterious cat that wandered onto the stage. The second night, however, was a triumphant success. In my research paper I will investigate the premiere and early performance reception, throwing light on some of the opera’s novel musical strategies, and provide a brief comparison with the more old-fashioned version composed by Rossini's rival, Paisiello. I will be looking at Rossini's overture using topic theory and sonata theory. Specifically, Rossini’s use of the “crescendo module” in the closing area of his exposition (the first part of the sonata form) gives some indication for the novelty, as well as for the lasting success of the opera.

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