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Thread: The Marriage of Figaro vs The Barber of Seville

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    Default The Marriage of Figaro vs The Barber of Seville

    Which Opera do you like the most Mozart's or Rossini's? They are based on the same character (Figaro) and both are based on Beaumarchais books.

    For me the winner is clearly The Marriage of Figaro. I like Rossini's Opera but the work of Mozart I think it's just on another level.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    I would have thought it quite obvious. Both are masterpieces and hugely enjoyable. But Mozart's is on another level of emotional and characterisation entirely. The Rossini is great fun. The Mozart sublime

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    It's interesting that they are both based on plays by the same writer and yet are quite different. Da Ponte trumps most other Italian librettists, however Sterbini gives him a run for his money and produces a text that exploits the comic possibilities of the story to the utmost, Da Ponte concentrates more on the humanity of the characters. They are such different approaches that I find it impossible to pick one over the other.

    Rossini and Mozart supplied music that matches the intent of their librettos, Rossini going straight for the jugular of humour and Mozart taking a more gentle approach. The intents and approach of each are so different and they are both equally successful in their respective voices that I find it difficult to declare that one score is 'better' than the other.

    That said, Mozart's music and orchestration are more sophisticated than Rossini's, however I personally prefer Barber. The most interesting thing is that similar source material could produce two such different works. Mozart's is the more intellectual of the two, whereas Rossini's hits the 'opera as entertainment' spot.

    N.

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    Senior Member stomanek's Avatar
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    I watched Rossini's work on video recently - the Berganza version.
    It struck me that the best music is in the first 20 minutes of the opera - overture - Figaro and Rosina great arias.

    Why could Rossini not sustain that? Or is this the format - big arias at start to establish character etc.

    To be honest some aspects of Rossini's vocal writing irritate me - you probably know what I mean.

    Nozze is a clear winner as it would be against virtually any other opera anyway.

    How about Paisello? He also did a barber of seville.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stomanek View Post
    I watched Rossini's work on video recently - the Berganza version.
    It struck me that the best music is in the first 20 minutes of the opera - overture - Figaro and Rosina great arias.

    Why could Rossini not sustain that? Or is this the format - big arias at start to establish character etc.

    To be honest some aspects of Rossini's vocal writing irritate me - you probably know what I mean.

    Nozze is a clear winner as it would be against virtually any other opera anyway.

    How about Paisello? He also did a barber of seville.
    Rossini wrote over 30 operas in a rather short space of time, like any artist some are less inspiring than others.

    However, I disagree with you about the best bits of Barber being the arias and all in the first 20 minutes. The most famous bits of Barber are those two arias and the overture, but could that be because they are more likely to be heard in concerts outside of the opera. I think the highpoints of the opera are actually the ensembles, the act one finale and the big one in the middle of act two. Buona sera! Gets me every time! Other composers are more subtle and wrote more complex and interesting music from a certain point of view, but there are few other composers who wrote music as funny as this (yes, the libretto and its situations are comic drama at its best, but the music is funny too).

    How about Paisiello? I once sung some excerpts from his Barber and there's a reason it's virtually forgotten today.

    N.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    Rossini wrote over 30 operas in a rather short space of time, like any artist some are less inspiring than others.

    However, I disagree with you about the best bits of Barber being the arias and all in the first 20 minutes. The most famous bits of Barber are those two arias and the overture, but could that be because they are more likely to be heard in concerts outside of the opera. I think the highpoints of the opera are actually the ensembles, the act one finale and the big one in the middle of act two. Buona sera! Gets me every time! Other composers are more subtle and wrote more complex and interesting music from a certain point of view, but there are few other composers who wrote music as funny as this (yes, the libretto and its situations are comic drama at its best, but the music is funny too).

    How about Paisiello? I once sung some excerpts from his Barber and there's a reason it's virtually forgotten today.

    N.
    Paisello - have never investigated - I dont know any of his opera and assume, probably correctly - it's not worth investigating.

    Rossini - I think the overture and the two big arias are famous for good reason. But listening with a critical ear as the 54 year old I am - having 30 years of listening behind me - and having experiences a range of operatic styles - Rossini's range of expression is very limited compared with Mozart Verdi Puccini and I suppose Wagner. But I would also say the same of Donizetti Bellini. Having said that - the best of what he does is attractive and some of the overtures are little masterpieces. Some I say - a few perhaps - The Thieving Magpie and William Tell, and Barber - others are less successful and seemingly perfunctory. I have to say his vocal writing can start to get tiresome - I'm no fan of the vocal gymnastics and ornamentation popular at the time.

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    I liked the Marriage of Figaro more. I've seen both, and returned to Marriage, but not Barber. I thought Barber was entertaining, but not as substantial as Marriage. I must admit I do not have recordings of either.

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    Mozart's best Operas were the best that had been composed until that point in history and for the next decades also. Only surpassed until the likes of Verdi, etc appeared.
    I hold this view having listened to tons of Opera.
    Bel Canto Operas are very entertaining and some of them very good musically but they don't reach the Genius of The Marriage of Fígaro or The Magic Flute which were not only entertaining and musically beautiful but also the psychological depth was unsurpassed until the mid 19th Century as I said. Of course it's only an opinión, not a fact.
    Last edited by ManuelMozart95; Oct-10-2018 at 21:05.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ManuelMozart95 View Post
    Mozart's best Operas were the best that had been composed until that point in history and for the next decades also. Only surpassed until the likes of Verdi, etc appeared.
    I hold this view having listened to tons of Opera.
    Bel Canto Operas are very entertaining and some of them very good musically but they don't reach the Genius of The Marriage of Fígaro or The Magic Flute which were not only entertaining and musically beautiful but also the psychological depth was unsurpassed until the mid 19th Century as I said. Of course it's only an opinión, not a fact.
    Except some of us would say that Mozart's best Operas were the best that has ever been composed. That is, of course, an opinion!

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Except some of us would say that Mozart's best Operas were the best that has ever been composed. That is, of course, an opinion!
    Well, I am of that opinion too although there are some Operas that are on the same level as Mozart's, but I agree that probable he was never surpassed in a way.
    What I meant is that I think until the mid 19th Century no Operas as good as Mozart's were written.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Except some of us would say that Mozart's best Operas were the best that has ever been composed. That is, of course, an opinion!
    What does 'best' mean here? As pointed out in this thread there are certain qualities that Marriage of Figaro has that Barber doesn't and vice versa. Who decides which qualities are the ones that qualify for that which some people describe as 'best'? If different people have different groups of categories that they consider 'best' doesn't that make the term somewhat meaningless?

    Let's take a simple example, person A considers the quality of 'harmonic complexity' as being the key component of what makes an opera better than another, whereas person B considers a libretto having 'involved plotlines' as being the main indicator of best. If person A and person B have a conversation about which opera by Mozart is the best they will be talking at cross purposes, wouldn't it be more benficial and desirable to talk about specific characteristics such as harmonic complexity, melodic appeal, character development in the libretto etc.?

    Otherwise, how is saying I think opera X is the best any different from saying opera X is my favourite?

    N.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ManuelMozart95 View Post
    Well, I am of that opinion too although there are some Operas that are on the same level as Mozart's, but I agree that probable he was never surpassed in a way.
    What I meant is that I think until the mid 19th Century no Operas as good as Mozart's were written.
    I'm always suspicious of claims that one composer or another was the absolute best in a particular area (in this case opera). The same goes for singers (although I think you can say that one singer or another was more accomplished in a particular role as there you are comparing like with like most often). I think there is a certain level of genius that can't be surpassed, but I find it hard to justify the idea that only one opera composer has reached that zenith.

    N.

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    Whilst it's perfectly ok to state a preference for one over the other, I don't think it's particularly constructive to pit one against the other. The Rossini is probably closer to the spirit of the original play, whilst Mozart (and Da Ponte) add to it a humanity that isn't in Beaumarchais. Whether that makes it better than the Rossini is a moot point. Personally, I prefer the Mozart, but think the Rossini one of the greatest pure comedies ever written.

    It is interesting to compare them and the differences in their setting of the source plays, but I doubt putting Mozart on some untouchable pedestal aids discussion.
    Last edited by GregMitchell; Oct-11-2018 at 15:24.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    What does 'best' mean here? As pointed out in this thread there are certain qualities that Marriage of Figaro has that Barber doesn't and vice versa. Who decides which qualities are the ones that qualify for that which some people describe as 'best'? If different people have different groups of categories that they consider 'best' doesn't that make the term somewhat meaningless?

    Let's take a simple example, person A considers the quality of 'harmonic complexity' as being the key component of what makes an opera better than another, whereas person B considers a libretto having 'involved plotlines' as being the main indicator of best. If person A and person B have a conversation about which opera by Mozart is the best they will be talking at cross purposes, wouldn't it be more benficial and desirable to talk about specific characteristics such as harmonic complexity, melodic appeal, character development in the libretto etc.?

    Otherwise, how is saying I think opera X is the best any different from saying opera X is my favourite?

    N.
    I think there is a current general opinion among opera lovers (who appreciate Mozart) that Mozart's 'best' are the da Ponte operas plus Zauberflote, for all round musical genius. Every book I have read by people who know far more than I about them has reckoned these four to be Mozart at his zenith as an opera composer. It is also my personal opinion as a listener. I have never heard anyone think much differently, have you? You heard anyone argue that Idomeneo or Seraglio are greater operas than the four mentioned? I haven't. But perhaps you have access to information I don't have?
    Last edited by DavidA; Oct-11-2018 at 15:34.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I think there is a current general opinion among opera lovers (who appreciate Mozart) that Mozart's 'best' are the da Ponte operas plus Zauberflote, for all round musical genius. Every book I have read by people who know far more than I about them has reckoned these four to be Mozart at his zenith as an opera composer. It is also my personal opinion as a listener. I have never heard anyone think much differently, have you? You heard anyone argue that Idomeneo or Seraglio are greater operas than the four mentioned? I haven't. But perhaps you have access to information I don't have?
    Sorry, perhaps my question wasn't clear. I wasn't asking which operas do you think are Mozart's 'best', but in what way do you mean best or what are your criteria for deciding that one opera is 'better' than another? In any case it is probably more a rhetorical question as the thread has developed.

    N.

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