One of the best versions of Rossini’s “Largo al factotum” from “The Barber of Seville”. Sung by British baritone, actor and opera singer John Rawnsley.
“Largo al factotum” (Make way for the factotum) is an aria from The Barber of Seville (Il barbiere di Siviglia) by Gioachino Rossini, sung at the first entrance of the title character; the repeated “Figaro”s before the final patter section are an icon in popular culture of operatic singing. The term “factotum” refers to a general servant and comes from the Latin where it literally means “do everything.”
Lyrics of “Largo al factotum”
Largo al factotum della città.
Presto a bottega che l’alba è già.
Ah, che bel vivere, che bel piacere
per un barbiere di qualità! di qualità!
Ah, bravo Figaro!
Fortunatissimo per verità!
Pronto a far tutto,
la notte e il giorno
sempre d’intorno in giro sta.
Miglior cuccagna per un barbiere,
vita più nobile, no, non si da.
Rasori e pettini
lancette e forbici,
al mio comando
tutto qui sta.
V’è la risorsa,
poi, del mestiere
colla donnetta… col cavaliere…
Tutti mi chiedono, tutti mi vogliono,
donne, ragazzi, vecchi, fanciulle:
Qua la parrucca… Presto la barba…
Qua la sanguigna…
Presto il biglietto…
Qua la parrucca, presto la barba,
Presto il biglietto, ehi!
Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!, ecc.
Ahimè, che furia!
Ahimè, che folla!
Uno alla volta, per carità!
Ehi, Figaro! Son qua.
Figaro qua, Figaro là,
Figaro su, Figaro giù.
Pronto prontissimo son come il fulmine:
sono il factotum della città.
Ah, bravo Figaro! Bravo, bravissimo;
a te fortuna non mancherà.
Make way for the factotum of the city,
Hurrying to his shop since dawn is already here.
Ah, what a fine life, what fine pleasure
For a barber of quality!
Ah, bravo Figaro!
A most fortunate man indeed!
Ready to do everything
Night and day,
Always on the move.
A cushier fate for a barber,
A more noble life, is not to be had.
Razors and combs,
Lancets and scissors,
At my command
Here are the tools
Of my trade
With the ladies… with the gentlemen…
Everyone asks for me, everyone wants me,
Ladies, young lads, old men, young girls:
Here is the wig… the beard is ready…
Here are the leeches…
The note is ready…
Here is the wig, the beard is ready,
The note is ready, hey!
Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!, etc.
Ah, what frenzy!
Ah, what a crowd!
One at a time, please!
Hey, Figaro! I’m here.
Figaro here, Figaro there,
Figaro up, Figaro down,
Swifter and swifter, I’m like a thunderbolt:
I’m the factotum of the city.
Ah, bravo Figaro! Bravo, bravissimo,
You’ll never lack for luck!
John Rawnsley was born at Colne in Lancashire.
He first had singing lessons at the age of 6 and was singing at an amateur level from the age of eight.
Both John’s parents were amateur singers and in 1965 at the tender age of 14, he joined his father as a member of the Colne Orpheus Glee Union, a renowned Male Voice Choir conducted by Ronald Riley who was to have a huge influence on his early musical life.
The following year he joined Colne Amateur Operatic Society, where he played various roles including ‘Bill Sykes’ in Oliver! – ‘Bill Hickock’ in Calamity Jane and ‘Kipps’ in Half a Sixpence.
The concert platform experience and the rudiments of stage craft which he aquired at amateur level, proved a more than useful foundation for life in the Professional Theatre!
However, it was in Studio 1 at BBC Television Centre in London, whilst watching the filming of a production of Rigoletto in 1967 at the age of 16 that Rawnsley first had thoughts of becoming a professional opera singer. He was there at the invitation of his brother who was the assistant designer of the film and the baritone singing the role of ‘Rigoletto’ was none other than Peter Glossop, whose wonderful singing and characterisation of Verdi’s ‘Tragic Jester’ was to have an inspirational effect on him.
After studying in Manchester with Albert Haskayne and Ellis Keeler at the Northern School of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music, he joined the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1975 and in 1976 he won the John Christie Award. He then began studying in London with the renowned baritone Ottakar Kraus.
Roles at Glyndebourne have included ‘Masetto’ in Sir Peter Hall’s Don Giovanni, ‘Perruchetto’ in La Fedelta Premiata, ‘Marcello’ in La Boheme, ‘Figaro’ in Il Barbiere di Seviglia.
With Glyndebourne Touring Opera he sang the roles of ‘Ford’ in Falstaff and ‘Nick Shadow’ in The Rake’s Progress.
He made his Royal Opera House debut in 1979 as ‘Schaunard’ in La Boheme where he was fortunate to work with the man who had inspired him twelve years previously – Peter Glossop who was singing the role of ‘Marcello’!
Rawnsley sang the role of ‘Marcello’ with Opera North early in 1979 and later that same year he sang his first ‘Rigoletto’. In 1981 Opera North gave him his first opportunity to sing, to huge acclaim, the role of ‘Macbeth’.
He made his debut with English National Opera in 1980 as ‘Amonasro’ in Aida and in 1982 he sang the role of ‘Rigoletto’ in Jonathan Miller’s ground breaking ‘Little Italy’ production of that opera both here and on their 1984 tour of North America with performances at the New York Metropolitan Opera House.
In the 1985 season at the Royal Opera House he sang the role of ‘Enrico’ in Lucia di Lammermoor with Joan Sutherland and Carlo Bergonzi. Later in that same season he sang the role of Sonora in La Fanciulla del West with Placido Domingo.
In July 1985 he made his Italian debut at the Sferisterio Arena in Macerata singing the role of ‘Rigoletto’. He followed this success with ‘Renato’ in Un Ballo in Maschera and ‘Rigoletto’ in Trieste.
Later that same year he sang the role of ‘Don Alfonso’, Cosi fan Tutte, in a film directed by Jonathan Miller for BBC Television.
His return to Macerata in the summer of 1986 to sing ‘Tonio’ in Pagliacci paved the way for his successful debut at La Scala, Milan – again in the role of ‘Tonio’. He returned to Macerata again in the summer of 1988 to sing the role of ‘Macbeth’ with tremendous success.
John Rawnsley has performed at major opera houses in France, Italy (Rigoletto in Pisa, Mantua, Lecce and Modena. Also the role of ‘Hermann’ in Catalani’s Loreley with the late Ghena Dimitrova in Verona), Spain (‘Ezio’ in Attila with Nesterenko and Zampieri in Madrid), Switzerland (‘Taddeo’ in Italian Girl in Algiers, a Ken Russell production in Geneva), Germany, Holland, Denmark, Iceland, the Far East, the USA and Canada singing the title roles in ‘Falstaff’, ‘Rigoletto’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Nabucco’, not to mention ‘Germont’ in La Traviata.
Perhaps his most treasured achievement was being able to perform ‘Rigoletto’ in a production of that opera with Alfredo Kraus as the ‘Duke of Mantua’ in Madrid which was subsequently filmed for the Spanish television network.
John Rawnsley’s recordings to date include The Beggar’s Opera (Argo), Don Giovanni (‘Massetto’), Rigoletto (‘Marullo’), EMI. The title role in Rigoletto (Chandos) and A History of Italian Opera 1820-1830 (Opera Rara).
Video films include:
La Boheme, ‘Schaunard’ (Royal Opera)
La Fanciulla del West, ‘Sonora’ (Royal Opera)
Il Barbiere di Seviglia, ‘Figaro’ (Glyndebourne)
Rigoletto, title role, (ENO)
Cosi fan Tutte, ‘Don Alfonso’ (BBC)
Attila, ‘Ezio’, (Madrid)
‘Rigoletto’ (Madrid) with Alfredo Kraus and Patricia Wise.
Along with many concert appearances, recent opera engagements have included the role of ‘Stankar’ in Verdi’s Stiffelio for Opera Holland Park.
“Rawnsley has yet to be surpassed in this staging as ‘Rigoletto’, a palpable presence and is impressive. His true Verdian baritone is used to convey character through delivery of James Fenton’s thoughtful translation.”
Verdi: Rigoletto Chandos CDs
“John Rawnsley turn[ed] in a powerful and idiomatic performance of ‘Stankar’ as a deranged old man. His projection of words was as ever wonderfully pungent, and his upper register remained bright and firm . . .”
Stiffelio – Opera Holland Park
“John Rawnsley’s stage presence and musicality, especially in his Act 3 aria were compelling.”
Stiffelio – Opera Holland Park
John has been married to Nuala Willis, the actress and contralto for over thirty years.
Read more: johnrawnsley.com