Seville is a city full of legends. It is full of corners about which beautiful stories are told, in which historical data are mixed with other literary or even fantastic ones. In the emblematic neighborhood of Santa Cruz, specifically in the Plaza de Alfaro, there is one of these corners whose legend the guides are almost obliged to relate.
It is the so-called Balcón de Rosina, which opens from number four of the aforementioned square to the Jardines de Murillo. It is called like this when attributing it to be the setting in which part of the history of the Barber of Seville takes place.
As it is said, this story, described for the first time in a Beaumarchais play from 1775, would be inspired by a real event that would have happened in this Sevillian house. As a synthesis of her argument, we can say that the Barber of Seville tells the story of Rosina, a young orphan who was in charge of an elderly tutor named Bartolo who wanted her as her wife. The young Count of Almaviva also falls in love with her, who follows the advice of her barber, Fígaro, in order to conquer her lady. In one of his courtship episodes, the lover gets to organize a serenade with other musicians at the foot of Rosina's balcony, in a scene that, as it is described, the truth is that it would fit perfectly in this beautiful Sevillian place from which we have been talking.
The world fame of the story would come from the hand of the Italian composer Rossini, who would take it to the stage with an opera premiered in 1816 and which would achieve world fame, to the point that it is probably the most outstanding example of the so-called "bufa opera" , which is characterized by having a comic theme. Even today it is still one of the most performed operas in the world.
The case of this city-inspired opera is not an isolated case. In fact, Seville is often said to be the place where the most operas have been set in the world. It is difficult to verify this fact, but what is certain is that there have been so many authors who have used it as a framework for their stories, that there are at least a hundred operas whose plot takes place totally or partially in Seville. To cite just a few top-level examples, we can mention Don Giovanni or The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, Fidelio by Beethoven, La Fuerza del Destino by Verdi or Carmen by Bizet.
In the case of Rossini's opera that we have been talking about, it is easy to see that it is not actually the balcony from which a hypothetical Rosina was looking out, since it is a building from the end of the 19th century, a century after it Beaumarchais wrote his Barber of Seville. A new owner acquired it in 1925 and undertook a reform in the framework of the regionalist spirit in which the city was imbued in the years before the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. Following this style, and probably wanting to recreate the opera scene, the beautiful balcony that has survived to this day was built.
In addition, at the same time the main door of the building was added, which is a beautiful example of a baroque door from the 17th or 18th century. Apparently, the owner had it brought from a palace or convent in Écija. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, as we see by the image of its central niche, and by the reliefs of the two medallions on the jambs, in which we see a well and a fountain, alluding to two of the invocations of Mary in the litanies, such as Puteus Aquarum (well of living waters or wisdom) and Fons Signatus (sealed source). On the lintel we see another relief with the Ave Maria anagram.
This recovery of architectural pieces from the past to incorporate them into new buildings perfectly matches the historicism of regionalist architecture. It has a romantic character that agrees perfectly with the evocation of literary or legendary episodes such as that of the Barber of Seville.
In short, we cannot say that Rosina heard from this beautiful balcony the serenades that her lover offered her at midnight from the square, but it is a beautiful example of regionalist architecture and its historicist character, which also serves to remember the Seville's fundamental role as one of the most recurrent settings in the history of European literature since the Renaissance.
TOURS IN SEVILLE: