As in the work of the same name by Rossini, Paisiello’s opera, written for the court of Catherine II in St. Petersburg, was based on Beaumarchais’ Le Barbier de Séville. The reason for this choice was the success of the play itself in Saint Petersburg. It is apparent from one of his letters that Paisiello received extremely precise instructions from the court : ‘What I should also advise you is to be brief, and use very few recitatives, because people don’t understand the language.’ Although the situation is completely different now, in the early 19th century Paisiello’s opera was a formidable rival to Rossini’s version. In the context of the opera buffa of the time, his opera was a masterpiece : with no complexity of characterisation or tonal style, but inventive and sharp in its development of comical situations packed with amorous entanglements. René Jacobs will quite definitely do full justice to its comic timing.