Rossini’s opera Il barbiere di siviglia is one of those operas which gives opera its reputation. Unbelievable plot that I can never remember in detail, anachronistic yet hugely credible characters and in this production, camp production and costumes supporting fantastic singing and orchestra amid the lovely acoustic of the Royal Opera House. All contributing to nearly three hours of sophisticated escapism where music, stagecraft and lighting combine to make performance magic.
It all worked like a dream team for this evening’s revival. Rosina (Aleksandra Kurzak) is immensely believable as the archetypal caged woman Rosina. We love to hate the fat guardian Bartolo; Figaro is the great showman and the audience’s friend from the moment he appears though the stalls and Ildar Abdrazakov’s characterisation of Basilio is so believable and human. The orchestra and conducting were fantastic: supple and supportive.
I’m not usually a fan of non-traditional productions but this one works and works all the way through by adding to and amplifying Rossini’s music. The lighting is simple but clever – I loved the upstage profiles throwing shadows across the hyper-realistic box set which complements the music and the style of the production. Even the exaggerated moon and the stylised lighting sunrise are completely right in this context.
The whole show has an athleticism and rightness even above a naturalistic production which would now seem staid. Plus the production is really playing for laughs, which is what comic opera should be about. This one delivers the audience feel-good factor on stage and to the ears and to the head. That of course is why Rossini’s version of Beaumarchais’ story of the Barber of Seville comes round so often and with such popularity if it's done well.
Il barbiere di siviglia – Rossini, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London
Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Directors: Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier
Set Designer: Christian Fenouillat
Costume designs: Agostino Cavalca
Lighting: Christophe Forey
Conductor: Rory Macdonald
Rosina: Aleksandra Kurzak
Count Almaviva: John Osborne
Figaro: Levente Molnár
Doctor Bartolo: Bruno Praticò
Don Basilio: Ildar Abdrazakov
Berta: Jennifer Rhys-Davies
Fiorello: Daniel Grice
Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House