Opera Scotland

Barbiere di Siviglia 1910Castellano Grand Italian Opera

Read more about the opera Barber of Seville

Operas of the bel canto school had seriously declined in popularity towards the end of the nineteenth century. Rossini's serious pieces had vanished completely (perhaps because of the technical difficulty in singing them). Even the comedies were scarce - this was tte first appearance of The Barber in Dundee for forty years.

By this time the casting of Rosina was almost invariably done with a light coloratura soprano, instead of the contralto for whom the part was composed. The lesson scene, in its original form, contains an aria, ''Contro un cor,'' which lies too low for these high voices, so a spurious tradition developed of inserting a different display piece.  Alessandrovic inserted a set of variations by Proch - a piece favoured by the great Tetrazzini herself.  During this tour, Alessandrovic was also singing Gilda and Lucia, also parts which we are now generally used to hear restored to more dramatic voices.

Cast details are from a programme in Aberdeen City Library. The five leading roles are confirmed by reviews in the Dundee Advertiser and Courier & Argus.


Dundee Reviews

Dundee Advertiser: Saturday, October 29, 1910    (p3)

Italian Opera - Rossini’s Il Barbiere

'Why, oh why, did the Castellano Company reserve the Rossinian masterpiece till almost the end of the week?  Had they introduced it earlier they might have fared much better.  Now it is almost too late for Dundee to make up for opportunities not sufficiently taken advantage of.  After the lively and novel experiences of last night had come to an end an old stager made the remark that Il Barbiere might be run here for a week and to big houses.  Whether that be the case or not, there is no doubt that last night’s splendid audience had a good time, and will probably keep the fact in mind against future opportunity.

'It is not surprising that Il Barbiere di Siviglia is a stranger to the Dundee operatic stage.  A finished style of vocalisation is required in it that in Europe generally has been unduly neglected during the last forty years.  The art of coloratura singing appears now to be taking a new lease of life.  While it is unlikely that it will ever again secure the predominance that it had in the palmy days - this is hardly to be desired - there seems a probability that vocalists will study and practise it more diligently than has been latterly the case.  This would redound to everybody’s advantage, vocalisation would acquire something of its old finish, and the reputation of Rossini and others like him would shine forth like newly polished metal.       

'The story of the opera, which is founded on Beaumarchais’ comedy, requires at this date no exposition.  Il Barbiere was produced almost a hundred years ago, and its humorous story of intrigue, and lively music, proved themselves last night as potent to please and amuse as they have been any time since that long-departed day.

'The methods of the Italian comic actors are very different from our own.  One hesitates, on a limited experience, to say that they are better.  It is certain, at all events, that they serve the purpose of making people’s sides ache with laughter, even though the dialogue may not always be fully understood.  There is much recitative in the opera.  Recitative is a word of dread to many good folk.  It is sometimes associated with very solemn and tedious moments.  These folk should hear the Italians deal with it to a conventional scrape or two of the ‘cello.  Why, it is a living thing!  A thing as interesting as an aria, as funny as Joe Miller’s best!

'But Il Barbiere is not all humour.  There is much good music in it, music that is above all tuneful and rhythmical.  We have already spoken with approbation of the vocalisation of the individual singers, and need not repeat our remarks.  Signora Alessandrovic made a charming Rosina, and sang “Una voce” with distinction.  In the lesson scene her songs were Proch’s brilliant variations, which make such demands on the head notes, and a pretty waltz movement, Desiderio, by Chopin.  Signor Vail as Figaro was the bustling, officious busy-body to the life.  “Largo al factotum” went well; and numberless phrases were delivered with just the amount of comic emphasis they required.  That one man should be able to play Rigoletto and also Figaro so excellently is rather wonderful.  Signor Barterra’s pleasant tenor gave the florid music allotted to Almaviva, and Signor Quintina as Dr Bartolo and Signor Vittori as Don Basilio were excellent, both from the acting and singing point of view.

'Signor Wehils kept his orchestral forces well in hand, the Rossini crescendo in the overture receiving due attention.

'Two operas now only remain to be played.  Those who have not yet heard this company should take this opportunity.''


Dundee Courier & Argus: Saturday, October 29, 1910  (p40)

Italian Opera in Dundee - Il Barbiere di Siviglia

'The change from tragedy to comedy proved popular, and there was a fairly good audience at Her Majesty’s last night.  Those present seemed to understand the play and to enjoy it, for laughter and applause were both frequent and hearty.  It would, we are sure, do to have included a repetition of Il Barbiere - or another comic opera - in the week’s repertoire.

'Rossini himself claims that he wrote Il Barbiere in thirteen days.  Be that as it may, it is certainly true that he and his librettist shut themselves up and worked at fever heat for a fortnight, which gave Rossini an excuse to say that though engaged with a barber he had no time to get a shave.

'Il Barbiere is closely associated with Madame Patti, for whom Rossini altered some of the music.  His setting is not the first by any means of Beaumarchais’ comedy, and it is a coincidence only, perhaps that Rossini began his Barbiere opera in the same year as he heard Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, which is a continuation of or sequel to Il Barbiere.  Rossini’s work was anything but a success at first.  Now it is practically the only opera of his which is performed with any frequency.

'Il Barbiere contains some of Rossini’s best known and finest numbers, such as Figaro’s popular aria “Largo al factotum,” Rosina’s delicious “Una Voce,” the sprightly “Zitti-Zitti” trio, and the famous Lesson scene, in which the prima donna is permitted to introduce her favourite cheval de bataille, even “Home, Sweet Home” having been known to be pressed into service.

'Last night’s performance was exceedingly happy, both musically and dramatically.  The humour is so broad, and lends itself so well to pantomime, that there is little difficulty in following it.  It does not matter what language Figaro uses when he insists on shaving Dr Bartolo and the  language of the Lesson scene is common all over the world.

'The fine overture - not, by the way, written originally for Il Barbiere - was very brightly played by the band.  The Count’s early solo and his duet with Figaro aroused enthusiasm, and the “business” with the mercenary musicians made the house merry.  The next act opens with “Una Voce,” and after that the fun gets fast and furious, but it culminates in Don Basilio getting his beard clipped.

'Signora Alessandrovic made a delightful Rosina.  She thoroughly realised the vivacious character of the part, and she sang with uncommon brilliance.  The florid passages of “Una Voce” were trilled with wondrous purity and precision, and the solo was loudly redemanded.  In the Lesson Scene the Signora chose Proch’s “Variations,” and, in reply to a double encore, sang twice the “Desiderio” of Chopin.  Her technique was displayed to the greatest advantage in the whole of the music.

'Signor Vail’s Figaro was a most amusing and racy performance.  Vocally he was splendid, singing, acting, and dancing in “Largo al factotum” with infectious gaiety and jollity.  His scenes with Dr Bartolo and Don Basilio were played in the freest spirit of broad comedy, and throughout Signor Vail much increased his popularity in Dundee.

'Signor Barterra as Count Almaviva was extremely happy.  His first solo was delightfully phrased, and his acting in the Lesson Scene was excellent and effective.  Signor Quintina as Dr Bartolo was most amusing, and Signor Vittori as Don Basilio used his grand bass voice to full advantage, and whetted interest in his Mefistofele to-night.

'The chorus - gentlemen only last night - sang as tunefully as usual, and the band, conducted by Signor Wehils, played well.

'This afternoon Lucia di Lammermoor will be presented, with Signora Alessandrovic as Lucia, Signor Barbato as Edgar, Signor Barterra as Bucklaw, and Signor Vittori as Bide-the-Bent.  At night Gounod’s Faust will be played.  Signora Defral will be the Margherita and Signor Romani the Faust, Signora Rocco the Siebel, and Signor Vittori the Mefistofele.  Signor Lietti will conduct in the afternoon, Signor Wehils in the evening.'

Performance Cast

Fiorello servant of the Count

Signor Fragari (Oct 21)

Count Almaviva

Signor Barterra (Oct 21, 28)

Figaro a barber

Signor Vail (Oct 21, 28)

Rosina Bartolo's ward

Signora Alessandrovic (Oct 21, 28)

Bartolo a doctor, Rosina's guardian

Signor Quintina (Oct 21, 28)

Berta Bartolo's housekeeper

Signora Rocco (Oct 21)

Don Basilio a singing teacher

Signor Vittori (Oct 21, 28)


Signor Toto (Oct 21)

Performance DatesBarbiere di Siviglia 1910

Map List

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

21 Oct, 19.30

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

28 Oct, 19.30

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