The premiere took place on 20 February 1816 at the Teatro Argentina, with designs by Angelo Toselli. Rossini’s opera recounts the events of the first of the three plays by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais that revolve around the clever and enterprising character named Figaro, the barber of the title.
Rossini’s Barber has proven to be one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy within music, and has been described as the opera buffa (description of Italian comic operas). After two hundred years, it remains a popular work.
The premiere was a disaster. The audience hissed and jeered throughout, and several on-stage accidents occurred. Many of the audience were supporters of one of Rossini’s rivals, the veteran Giovanni Paisiello, who played on mob mentality to provoke the rest of the audience to dislike the opera. Paisiello had already composed The Barber of Seville and took Rossini’s new version to be an affront to his version.