Francisco Barbieri: El Barberillo de Lavapiés - Zarzuela in Three Acts

Like his English contemporary, Sir Arthur Sullivan, Barbieri – sometimes styled ‘The Spanish Glinka’, for his importance to Madrid’s operatic development – drew on a potent mix of ingredients ranging from Mozart, French opéra comique and Italian opera through to the popular music of his time and place. El barberillo boasts a brilliant, tuneful score, and a libretto by Luis Mariano de Larra that is witty, well-structured and passionate. Although not Barbieri’s ‘breakthrough work’ (which was Jugar con fuego, ‘Playing with Fire’ in 1851), El barberillo is Barbieri at his perfect best. The title plays on his own name, while inevitably evoking another famous Spanish barber, Rossini’s from Seville. It is as if Barbieri was issuing a challenge, proclaiming that Madrid was now an operatic match for any city in Europe. The gambit succeeded: the huge success of El barberillo supplied the cornerstone for a long-lived musical stage tradition (and economic goldmine) which lasted beyond the 1936 Spanish Civil War.


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