Even after reading the synopsis twice the ridiculous narrative of Rossini’s famous Barber of Seville makes little sense. But let’s be honest people flock to see this opera for the magnificent music not for the story.
Having said that, the ENO’s revival is terribly funny and uses the nuances of the complicated tale to include hilariously entertaining episodes. Although the production is not in modern dress, the modernised English lyrics are extremely clever and fit in perfectly with the comical operetta style.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary year, Jonathan Miller’s classic staging of Rossini’s masterpiece is back at the Coliseum, in my opinion better than ever. The petite cast work brilliantly together to present a seamless performance of music and drama, and revival director Peter Relton has managed to give a new lease of life to Miller’s original version.
The show starts slowly but soon gathers momentum. I was captivated throughout, my attention completely controlled by the characters on stage. Benedict Nelson is a witty and charismatic Figaro, and his voice is elegant and charming. My guest adored David Soar’s depiction of Don Basilio and we both loved Andrew Shore’s magnificently energetic and clever performance as Doctor Bartolo. However it is the leading lady who steals the show. Lucy Crowe sparkles as the coloratura diva, Rosina. Her voice soars and pierces the top stratospheric notes with staggering ease and impressive dexterity. Along with her natural acting ability and good looks, she is an absolute pleasure to watch.
Surprisingly for the first time I found the ENO orchestra a little sluggish under the command of Jaime Martin, a conductor I didn’t recognise. They did pick up the passion once the familiar arias swung into action. Visually the production is a joy, though we would have appreciated perhaps one more scene change. Costumes may be cumbersome for the cast but are worth the effort as they look gorgeous under the lights.
I am always interested in the ENO’s new compositions, but there is only so much tragedy us opera reviewers can cope with… in my opinion it is much more fun skipping home still singing the marvellous tunes of Rossini’s great comic masterpiece.
Continues until Sunday 17 March, book here.