The Barber of Seville encore screening from Glyndebourne at The Festival Theatre is by the nature of its subject matter probably one of the better suited to this cinematic format operas out there.
This comedy opera by Gioachino Rossini with Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini is 200 years old this year, and with this enthusiastic production is still funny. You can see here the source material for so many 20th century stage farces and television sit-coms as the characters are so well defined.
As so common for the period, this is a tale of getting the woman of your dreams, conniving much older rivals and of course the almost obligatory multiple disguises.
All of our principal characters are in over the top form here and obviously enjoying every minute on stage, and it is an all star cast that gives us these performances.
Rosina (Danielle De Niese)
Dr Bartola (Alessandro Corbelli)
Count Almaviva (Taylor Stayton)
Figaro (Bjorn Burger)
Stealing the show for me though is Danielle De Niese with her interpretation of the beautiful, but cunning, Rosina who is held a virtual captive in her room like a bird in a gilded cage until her much older ward Dr Bartolo can get married to her and gain not only her but also her fortune. Not only do we have outstanding vocals here from Danielle, but a great acting performance with a wonderful understanding of comedy timing. So much of this performance rests on Danielle’s portrayal of Rosina and here on screen performance allows us close up those wonderful facial expressions which from your normal view in the audience watching this live may not be seen that clearly. Also of course, wonderful close up detail of the costumes for Rosina.
Bjorn Burger and Tom Stayton are an impressive double act as Figaro and Count Almaviva and their sense of fun in these two roles adds a lightness to the whole production. Alessandro Corbelli as Dr Bartolo is the perfect comedy counterpoint to both. As expected of course, amazing vocals from all.
Conducting this performance is Enrique Mazzola, and one of the plus points of a screening is that we get a chance at times to see the orchestra playing in close up, and this is so obviously a work that Enrique enjoys enormously. Some orchestra pit/stage interaction with Enrique also breaks down the usual barriers between the two areas…Figaro, in a nice touch, actually comes on stage via the orchestra pit.
Careful attention here has also been given to the detailing of this set. The room that Rosina is in is walled with “Seville blue and white” tiles and bird motifs, and this colour scheme and imagery is carried through onto other areas including the top that Figaro wears, furniture and even a handkerchief that Dr Bartolo uses.
Just simply an enjoyable light comedy to watch acted out with wonderful music and voices to listen to along the way, and one of the rarer occasions where the small main cast and subject matter make this opera possibly better to watch on screen than live as this production is so cinematic to begin with.
Review by Tom King