We started the evening with one of the great pieces of music in the entire operatic canon, Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, or we can use its English title, The Barber of Seville. The full title is The Barber of Seville, or The Futile Precaution. Using a libretto by Pierre Beaumarchais that was actually the first part of a trilogy of plays that also gave us Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, it premiered in Rome in 1816. It was also one of the first Italian operas to be performed in the United States, being premiered in New York City in 1825. Interestingly enough, its 1816 premiere was booed and hissed, an organized effort by a rival composer who had already used the play in an opera of his own. But the second performance was an unqualified success, and that success has continued to the present day.
Our next opera is considered one of the first important German Romantic era operas, and as such was an important influence on composers such as Wagner and Strauss. Carl Maria von Weber premiered Der Freischütz in 1821, with a libretto by Frederich Kind that was based on the German folk legend of the Freischütz. Tonight’s performance is a 1973 recording with Gundula Janowitz, Peter Schreier, Edith Mathis, and Theo Adam; Carlos Kleiber conducted the Staatskapelle Dresden.