Stealing a Little Thunder: 'The Barber of Seville'

In ACT ONE, after the familiar overture, we meet Count Almaviva standing outside a house in Seville, singing a serenade. He's fallen in love with a beautiful young woman named Rosina. Almaviva has trailed her home, disguised as a poor student and calling himself Lindoro -- hoping she'll fall for him, and not just his title. The serenade is lovely, but it doesn't work. Rosina fails to appear.

Figaro makes a boisterous entrance, with the famous aria "Largo al factotum." He and Almaviva already know each other, and Figaro agrees to help the Count meet Rosina. Figaro tells Almaviva that Rosina is the ward of the wealthy Doctor Bartolo, and is living in Bartolo's house. Moreover, Figaro is Bartolo's barber, and can get into the house any time he wants. But there's a snag: Bartolo wants to marry Rosina himself, and keeps her under lock and key. This becomes clear when Almaviva tries another serenade. Rosina is seen briefly at a window, but someone else quickly closes the shutters.

Figaro figures that the only way Almaviva can speak with Rosina is to find a way into the house -- and he has a plan. Almaviva should pose as a drunken soldier and demand housing from Bartolo.
Inside, Rosina has written a letter to "Lindoro," the poor but handsome suitor she's spotted outside. We hear it in the famous aria "Una voce poco fa." Bartolo hears from his friend, the music teacher Don Basilio, that a count named Almaviva is in town, and has his eyes on Rosina. Bartolo decides he'd better marry his ward quickly, before this troublesome count gets in the way. But Figaro overhears this, and warns Rosina. He also agrees to deliver her letter to "Lindoro," going along with Almaviva's deception.

Before long, Almaviva arrives in his drunken soldier disguise, enraging Bartolo by demanding housing and repeatedly mispronouncing the doctor's name. Bartolo produces an official document exempting him from mandatory billeting, and the count protests -- loudly.  In the process, he exasperates Bartolo by repeatedly mispronouncing the god doctor's name, calling him "Balordo," "Bertoldo" and "Barbaro."

Figaro shows up again and the commotion draws the police, who threaten to arrest Almaviva. When he quietly produces his official papers, they back off in a hurry. Bartolo is outraged. Nobody but Figaro understands why the cops are treating the "drunken soldier" with kid gloves, and the first act ends in confusion.

As ACT TWO opens, Count Almaviva is about to try another scheme to weasel his way into Doctor Bartolo's home. This time, Almaviva has disguised himself as Don Alonso, a music teacher. Claiming to be a student of Bartolo's friend Basilio, he says Basilio himself is ill and that he's come in Basilio's place, to give Rosina her lesson. Bartolo is skeptical. But the count wins him over by producing the letter written to "Lindoro" by Rosina, and saying they can use it to convince Rosina that the young man she wrote to is simply trying to use her. Bartolo falls for this, and the music lesson begins.

Meanwhile, Figaro shows up to give Bartolo a shave and a haircut. When Bartolo sends him to fetch the shaving gear, Figaro also steals the key to Rosina's balcony door. In the process, he also knocks over a stack of dishes, making a ruckus that brings Bartolo to investigate. This leaves Rosina and Almaviva alone to declare their love.

Basilio, the real music teacher, arrives and threatens to foil the whole plan. But with Figaro's help, the lovers convince him that he really is sick and had best save his energy, and go home. Almaviva also pays him off, just for good measure, and Basilio leaves.  Almaviva and Rosina agree to elope at midnight, using the stolen key, and Almaviva sneaks out.

But Basilio soon returns, and Bartolo finds out that Rosina has just had a music lesson from a phony teacher. He's not sure exactly what's going on, but decides to marry Rosina immediately. First he sends Basilio off to fetch a notary. Then Bartolo shows Rosina the letter she wrote to the guy she knows as Lindoro, the poor student. Bartolo tells her it was given to him by a count named Almaviva -- who is surely using Lindoro to get to her. Rosina still doesn't realize that Lindoro actually is Count Almaviva. Devastated, she agrees to marry Bartolo, if only to get even with Lindoro and the conniving count.

With Rosina alone in her room, Figaro and Almaviva climb a ladder to her balcony, as planned, and open the door. Calling Almaviva "Lindoro," Rosina throws his letter at him and accuses him of trying to sell her to the count. But when Almaviva reveals his identity, all is forgiven. Figaro tells them there's no time to waste, and tries to hurry them out of the house. But they can't leave just yet -- there's still a love duet to sing! By the time they've finished, Bartolo has removed the ladder, and they're trapped.

Just then, Basilio rushes into the room with the notary -- while Bartolo is fetching the police to get his household back under control. Figaro immediately tells the notary to marry Almaviva and Rosina. When Almaviva produces a nice roll of cash -- and a pistol -- Basilio agrees to act as witness, and the ceremony is performed.

Bartolo turns up with the police in tow, demanding to have "Lindoro" arrested and still believing he's about to marry Rosina.  But when Almaviva announces his true identity to everyone, Bartolo knows it's a lost cause. With no options left, he blesses the newlyweds and everyone wishes them a long and happy marriage.