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Favorite Western Classical Piece:

Una Voce Poco Fa from Il barbiere di Siviglia

Roberto Javier Vidal

MUL 2110-0003
Ryan Whittington
October 3, 2016

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Throughout my musical life, there have been very few select pieces that have resonated
with me until currently. However, only a handful have truly impacted who I am as an individual
and musician today. One of those pieces has been Una Voce Poco Fa from Il barbiere di
Siviglia, the comedic opera by Gioachino Rossini. The opera was first performed under the title
Almaviva o sia linutile precauzione (Almaviva; or, The Useless Precaution) at the Teatro
Argentina in Rome on February 20, 1816."1 From its premier, the operas staging, performance,
and practice has revolutionized; however, the music has remained resilient. This is evident in the
aria that I have selected as my favorite piece, Una Voce Poco Fa.
To begin, the piece is a cavatina, this opera term was applied to elaborate virtuoso arias, 2
which is what this piece resembles due to its highly ornamented and melismatic melodic line.
The aria is done by Rosina, who is the fledgling lady and protg of Dr. Bartolo. It is performed
in the second act and it is her opening entrance. The piece is able to musically depict the
characteristics of her persona subtly through the use of musical and performance techniques. The
piece starts out slowly with a pianissimo dynamic which reflects and embodies her intimate and
nave mood. She speaks of the person she wants to marry, who is Lindoro, the Count. The first
section of the song resembles her immatureness as a young lady and her hopeful aspirations for
love. However, the second part reveals her strong determination to reach her goal. The song
sparkles with vitality and virtuoso skills. 3 The song develops with over-the-top runs and trills
that propel her to the end of the piece where the coloratura passages express her charm, wit, and

1 Betsy Scharm, The Barber of Seville, Encyclopedia Britannica Online


2 The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 2nd ed. rev. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press
3 Charles R. Beck, What to Listen for in Opera: An introductory Handbook. McFarland, 2014, pg. 19

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humor4 and she is able to fully realize that she can use these qualities to conquer and mesmerize
the Count. This piece is extremely appealing to me due to its virtuosic nature and extremely
difficult coloratura passages. The song calls for a young, lively mezzo-soprano with the agility to
do the rapid and vivacious coloratura melismas in the developmental section. The song ends
with an outstanding bravura, 5which is able to depict her ability to turn from a young woman to
a viper and lay a bunch of traps in order to obtain and get what she wants, the Count. This
depiction of her evolution is portrayed through the thrusting difficulty of the coloratura runs until
the summit which is the aforementioned bravura at the end. One of the difficult coloratura
passages is shown below:

The passage above has to be one of my most beloved coloratura run due to its mere difficulty. It
is here that we first see Rosinas agility and ability to be virtuosic and mandate what she wants.
Apart from this being one of my preferred pieces due to its complexity and difficulty, Rossini
himself is one of my favorite composers of all time. Rossini wrote this opera in 13 days, and
4 Ibid, pg. 19
5 Charles R. Beck, What to Listen for in Opera: An introductory Handbook. McFarland, 2014, pg. 147
6 Philip Gossett. "The Written and the Sung: Ornamenting Il barbiere di Siviglia." Common
Knowledge17, no. 2 (2011): pg. 245

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some called him lazy for doing so; however, it is so fascinating to me that he was able to piece
together so many different musical aspects that he was contemplating at one time into one
cohesive musical idea. Nevertheless, Rossinis greatest contribution to music in The Barber is
his joyous spontaneity,7 he is capable of capturing previous ideas of works as well as new
motives that were very progressive for his time, and create a complete solid work that has served
as a staple for classical operatic literature. Moreover, one the attributes that I am so grateful in
Rossinis writing is his ability to understand the human voice. Rossini writes for his singers and
it is a pleasure and honor to sing Rossinis music, another reason why I am so fond of his works.
It is said that only the initiated can tell how artfully the composer has contrived to give the
singer every chance to make the most of vocal skill without in any way lessening the flow of
natural melodic inspiration.8
To conclude, Una Voce Poco Fa is my chosen piece of Western Classical music due to its
difficulty and virtuosic quality which resonates with me so much. It is written by one of my
beloved composers and it highlights the ability of my instrument, the voice. The song takes you
on a musical journey that helps you understand the meaning and understanding of what it means
to be a protg in Rosinas time. Rossinis ability to tactfully develop his character as his music
becomes more developmental concurrently is why I find this aria so tasteful. It is through the
lavish music writing of this opera and aria that I revel in the florid and vibrant coloratura runs,
for without them, my heart would seem to not flutter.

7 Samuel Holland. Rous, The Victrola Book of the Opera; Stories of the Operas (Camden, NJ: Victor
Talking Machine, 1929), pg. 36
8 Samuel Holland. Rous, The Victrola Book of the Opera; Stories of the Operas (Camden, NJ: Victor
Talking Machine, 1929), pg. 36

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Bibliography
Beck, Charles R. What to Listen for in Opera: An Introductory Handbook. McFarland, 2014.
"Cavatina." The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 2nd ed. rev.. Oxford Music Online. Oxford
University Press, accessed October 2,
2016,http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.proxy.lib.fsu.edu/subscriber/article/opr/t237/e1
93
Philip Gossett. "The Written and the Sung: Ornamenting Il barbiere di Siviglia." Common
Knowledge17, no. 2 (2011): 231-246. Accessed October 1, 2016. https://muse.jhu.edu/
Rous, Samuel Holland. The Victrola Book of the Opera; Stories of the Operas. Camden, NJ:
Victor Talking Machine, 1929.
Schwarm, Betsy. The Barber of Seville. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Accessed October
01, 2016. https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Barber-of-Seville-opera-by-Rossini.

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