25 February 2011 at 4.49pm | Comment on this article
Accessible arias: Footage of famous arias, with subtitles in the original language and translation.
Largo al factotum
Act 1 of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia/ Barber of Seville,
Figaro makes his entrance
CONTEXT: Figaro’s jubilant entrance song comes just after the Count's serenade in Act I (see previous post). The count’s problem is that his would-be girlfriend is imprisoned by an old man, Dr Bartolo, who is her legal guardian and has plans to become more than that in due course. What the count needs is some cunning Mr Fixit to help with an escape plan. And as luck would have it, in comes just the person: Figaro. Usually we hear him before we see him because his opening cavatina tends to start offstage, its bustling self-importance trumpeting through the (still earlymorning) streets of Seville. And self-importance is the word. In this most famous of baritone numbers, Figaro introduces himself as the sharpest character in town – not just because he’s in demand as a barber-surgeon but because his profession opens doors and enables him to offer other, more discreet services concerning affairs of the heart. He is, as he says, the town factotum before whom all must step back (Largo al factotum) while he goes about his business. And apart from the technical requirements of this number – which accelerates into a fast-moving patter song and demands stamina as well as elegance – its chief difficulty is to sell the idea of Figaro’s capabilities without him sounding horribly conceited. He is, after all, the title role in a comic opera. If you don’t like him, it’s a problem.
LISTEN: Pietro Spagnoli sings Largo al factotum in Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s production of Il barbiere di Siviglia/The Barber of Seville. Excerpt from a Radio 3 recording, 10 July 2010.
LYRICS: In the original Italian, as sung on stage, and in their English translation.
|La ran la le ra, la ran la. La!
Largo al factotum della città, largo
La ran la le ra, la ran la. La!
Presto a bottega, che l’alba è già, presto!
Fortunatissimo per verità! Bravo!
Pronto a far tutto, la notte, il giorno,
Rasori e pettini, lancette e forbici
V’è la risorsa poi del mestiere, colla donnetta,
Ah che bel vivere, che bel mestiere.
Qua la parrucca... Presto la barba...
Presto la barba. Presto il biglietto, eh!
Ahimè, che furia!
Pronto prontissimo son come il fulmine:
Bravo Figaro! Bravo,
|La ran la le ra, la ran la la.
Make way for the city’s factotum, make way!
La ran la le ra, la ran la la.
Hurry to the shop, dawn is breaking.
So fortunate, so very fortunate!
Ready to do anything, night or day,
Razors and combs, lancets and scissors,
I’ve got all the tools of the trade , for fine ladies
Ah, what a good life, such a good trade.
Here is the wig...The beard is ready...
The beard is ready.. The letter is ready, hey!
Ah, what a fuss!
Quick, super quick, I’m like lightening:
Bravo Figaro! Bravo,
Composer: Rossini. Libretto: Cesare Sterbini after the play’Le barbier de Seville by PierreAugustin Beaumarchais. Discover more about The Barber of Seville/Il barbiere di Siviglia: synopsis, characters, context text, full details of current production.
Credits: Intro text: Michael White. Score by Ricordi, as sung on stage, translations: Emma Beatty/Michele Bona. Photo: Bill Cooper