Before Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Rossini, there was an opera of the same name by Giovanni Paisiello. The Rossini opera is the more famous and we have seen it often live and on DVD. Tonight, we watched, on DVD, the Paisiello version.
As an aside, we ask: can there be a greater pleasure than a bottle of brandy, a pack of Camel, and an opera? Am I the only one to enjoy a solitary evening thus? I have met no-one who cares to join me in this solitary indulgence of sound & emotion. Particularly after a long ride on my bicycle when the muscles ache and the pain tests the limits of endurance. This is pure pleasure: extreme exercise, total exhaustion, pain endured, drink, drunkenness, nicotine, and the stimulation of the senses to the limit. Well maybe the pleasure of the physical senses and somebody else of physical perfection.
The folk who first saw the Rossini’s Barber were incensed. “How could he try to emulate the Paisiello opera?”
The answer is that Rossini did and in so doing moved us into the modern era. For the Barber by Paisiello is two-dimensional as compared to the three-dimensional opera of Rossini. While the music of both is a joy to hear–and there are many similarities–Rossini takes us to a deeper, more complex perspective of action, intrigue, and music.
Both make for a glorious night of alcohol and nicotine. Both are foot-thumping and boisterous. Both tell the same story. Both have many tunes that are similar. At the end of both, you are musically exhausted, from a plethora of sound and melody. Why bother to compare? They are individually each a work of art. Why has it taken so long to see the older version?
The fact is that the Rossini version is better music, better drama, and more akin to modern perspectives. But that should not deprive you of the glorious music and human perspective of the earlier opera. Get it and see.