Voice type: Mezzo-soprano or soprano
Rosina is far from a typical 19th-century operatic heroine. Traditionally passive – a victim or object of affection rather than an instigator – the heroines of Rossini’s forebears were a world away from this decisive, assertive, resourceful girl.
Rosina’s flirtatious, lively demeanour is mirrored in fast-paced, agile music that is technically very demanding. The emphasis is very much on drama and personality, not just the beauty of the voice.
Voice type: Baritone
Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is based on the same trilogy of plays by Pierre Beaumarchais as Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. The two operas share their hero – the silver-tongued barber Figaro – but Rossini’s Figaro is much cleverer and more calculating than Mozart’s, the puppet-master of the whole comedy.
Figaro lives by his wits, and his music moves just as fast as his mind. The contrast between the Count’s graceful, laid-back arias and Figaro’s chattering, tongue-twisting numbers couldn’t be greater.
Voice type: Tenor
Count Almaviva is a much more traditional operatic lover than his beloved Rosina. Romantic (he falls in love at first sight) and sensitive, he relies on the streetwise Figaro to be the brains behind his seduction scheme.
Almaviva’s music is some of the most beautiful in the opera. Long, lyrical phrases set his arias apart from Figaro’s bustling chatter, lending weight and sincerity to the passionate emotions he expresses.
Voice type: Bass
The character of Doctor Bartolo, Rosina’s stern, suspicious guardian, comes directly from the Italian theatrical tradition of commedia dell’arte. Here, the doctor was always a foolish old man, interfering with the two lovers.
Bartolo is a typical ‘buffo’ (comic) bass role. It demands a lot of characterful comedy and tremendous vocal agility to pull off the slightly hysterical, chattering vocal writing.
Voice type: Mezzo-soprano
Housekeeper Berta keeps well out of the way of the opera’s various schemes and plots. Standing apart from the action, she looks on with amusement (and a little cynicism) as her employer makes a fool of himself.