The Royal Opera House hosts an utterly triumphant revival of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s production of Gioachino Rossini and Cesare Sterbini’s classic opera Il barbiere di Siviglia (the barber of Seville to us mere mortals). It is an animatedly dynamic production full of fun, smiles and laughter.
Il barbiere di Siviglia is the simple and charming story of a young man who must fight to be with the woman that he loves. Count Almaviva conceals his title from the young woman, Rosina, who is the object of his affections in the hope that she will love him regardless of his wealth and position. On finding that she loves him regardless of his fortune, he constructs a way of making her his wife, and with the help of Figaro, the local barber they conceive a plan. There is one small snag; Rosina is imprisoned by an old and grumpy doctor who wishes to marry Rosina that very same day. This grumpy old man, Doctor Bartolo, is assisted in his misconducts by a wonderfully wicked priest and the whole thing descends into fabulous chaos relatively quickly. It’s quite fantastic.
With a good choice of eccentric characters, a love match, in which we are invested, all amplified in the excitement of the huge time pressures of the piece, it is little wonder that the entire first half ends up culminating into a monumentally spectacular climax, helped hugely by the most incredible set flourishes from Christian Fenouillat.
I should, and feel obliged to add, however that the first half alone was just over two hours long. It was with real discipline of concentration that I was able to fully enjoy it to the end of that two hour stint and I should acknowledge that sitting through two hours of singing in a different language with a plot that moved relatively slowly will absolutely not be everyone’s cup of tea. But my wish is to encourage anyone to try this piece out, even if you have never seen an opera before in your life (this is only the second one I have ever seen by the way). There is a helpful and non-abrasive translation displayed above the stage on a caption board (surtitles). I found it useful to glance at if I felt like I was loosing the plot, no pun intended. But generally, and especially in this production the performers do all the hard work for you, making this opera, although long, a very fun and enjoyable experience.
Vito Priante is glorious as the title role of the barber, Figaro. Both his tone and visual projection are magnificent and his humour and cheek is superb. Javier Camarena makes a glorious debut at the Royal Opera House as the Count, reviving the role he previously sung for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. His voice is almost unearthly, and with a residual power that resonates around the whole hall – it was stunning, stunning work. Daniela Mack again makes her debut at the Royal Opera House and is charming, cheeky and astute in her role of Rosina. It is another transfixing and powerful vocal delivery, made seamlessly and effortlessly by this exceptionally talented young woman.
It was a delightful evening of joy, laughter, surprises and so importantly spectacular music and drama. The atmosphere was electric and the orchestra, incredibly conducted by Henrik Nánási was simply perfection. Whether you are a first time opera viewer or a seasoned professional this is not a production to miss. It is a classic done wonderfully and I would question anyone who might say, with sincerity, that they did not enjoy it.
Il barbiere di Siviglia is playing the Royal Opera House until 11 October. For more information and tickets, see the Royal Opera House website.
Photo: Mark Douet