Seville is a city full of charm and a source of inspiration for opera composers.
It has always been known the strong linkage between the capital of Andalusia and this sublime art that combines music and theatre.
Did you know that 153 works have been inspired by characters and streets in Seville?
In 2012, a study of experts after an extensive two-decade research, estimated the number of operas set in Seville in 153 and publishing the book Sevilla. City of 150 opera, written by Andrés José Moreno Mengíbar and Ramón María Serrera.
As the authors state, Seville has an operatic heritage that surpasses that of legendary cities such as Rome, Paris, and Venice. Of the eight or nine great literary myths, four are Spaniards-Don Quixote, Carmen, Figaro and Don Juan-and of them, three of them being Sevillians. Sevilla offers originality and with that very few can compete.
There is a popular travel book from the 19th century titled Wanderings in Spain which was first published in the city of London in 1873 by Strathan & Co. Having traveled through Spain during the winter of 1871-1872, the English traveler Augustus J. C. Hare (1834 – 1903) brought to light this fascinating travel diary. On page 117 of this first edition, the author, after describing the Alcázar of Seville, tries to locate the establishment where belonging to the dramatical Figaro Barber.
Just behind the Alcazar is the Plaza S. Tomas, where Figaro, the barber of Seville, had his shop. It is strange that no enterprising barber should set up a shop there now.
According to Hare it was extraordinary that no enterprising barber or good connoisseur of the subject had settled a similar business in such a privileged location, right in front of the facade of the Casa de las Monedas, behind the customs, next to the Colegio de Santo Tomas and opposite the Casa de la Lonja, where the universal Figaro had performed his famous trade.
Fiction or reality? Did Augustus in search of such a place or even after Figaro’s shadow? Or, in other words, why does the English traveler believe that Figaro has even existed? Among the romantic travelers and many passionate people, there are times when fictional characters and locations and imaginary ones have more strength than reality itself.
Our favorite operas set in Seville
Don’t worry, we are not going to talk about the whole 153. Actually, we’re only going to talk about seven of them. Most of these are really popular, so you will probably now quite a few.
Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
Considered by many experts as the best opera of all times. It was premiered in Vienna in 1786. The original libretto is by Lorenzo da Ponte.
Mozart had to be the one who started this selection that we have chosen for the best operas set in Seville. In this entertaining opera, we find entanglement, dramatic breakups, disguised characters and confusion of identities. Selecting a single fragment is really difficult. The whole opera is a marvel, but probably my personal favorite is its conclusion when all the mistakes are resolved happily.
The Force of Destiny (Verdi)
Nor Verdi could resist the charm of Seville. His opera, La Forza of Destiny, premiered in St. Petersburg in 1862.
This is a complete tragedy where almost everyone ends up dying. There are misunderstandings that could have been solved in a few minutes, scenes in which nothing really happens but there is music to fill four acts and even more.
Another emblematic opera set in Seville is Bizet’s Carmen. The French libretto is by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy.
We all know what we adore in Carmen. This is the love obsession carried to the extreme. It all ends dramatically. Our favorite fragment is the popular Habanera, a scene which takes place at the Cigar factory in Seville where Carmen labors.
Don Giovanni (Mozart)
The endless talen of Mozart had enough inspiration to write another masterpiece set in Sevilla. Don Giovanni premiered in the city of Prague in 1787. The libretto, as in the previous case, is written in Italian by Lorenzo da Ponte.
The story of the seducer and unscrupulous, Don Giovanni, is interspersed with funny scenes. Despite these varied humorous parts, the end is frightening and shocking, when the libertine receives his punishment and is dragged to hell.
One of the most popular numbers is Leporello’s aria, where the servant of Don Giovanni sings the list of conquests of his master to his wife Doña Elvira.
The Barber of Seville (Rossini)
From all the operas set in Seville, this one is possibly the most popular. It is also the only one that incorporates the name of the city in the title.
The libretto of Il Barbiere di Siviglia is by Cesare Sterbini. It was premiered in Rome in 1816.
What we are going to find in this opera is overflowing fun, quick action and all kinds of mischief and adventures. My favorite part is the end of Act I as it represents Rossini’s genius.
Ludwig van Beethoven wrote only one opera. We thus can consider quite an honor he chose to locate it in Seville. It was premiered in Vienna in 1805. The German libretto is by Josef Sonnleithner and Georg Treitschke.
La Favorite (Donizetti)
La Favorite is a grand opéra in four acts with music by Gaetano Donizetti and French libretto by Alphonse Royer, Gustave Vaëz, and Eugène Scribe, based on the theatrical piece Le Comte de Comminges (1764) by François-Thomas-Marie de Baculard D’Arnaud. It was premiered on December 2, 1840, at the Opéra de Paris.
The history of this opera takes place in Spain, in the year 1340, when Castile and Portugal joined together to rebel against the Muslims in the famous Battle of Salado. One of the characters is Alfonso XI of Castile and the story involves a love triangle between him, his lover Leonor de Guzmán and her lover, Fernando. The story takes place in the backdrop of the Moorish invasions, and also reflects the power struggle between the church and the state. The action takes place in several parts of the Spanish geography. If we include it in our selection of operas set in Seville, it is because Acts II and III run in the gardens of the Alcázar of the city.