The Barber of Seville(or Il Barbiere Di Siviglia) for me is up there with William Tell as Rossini's masterpiece. The music is amazing, I am always amused by the comic coincidences and the characters are lively and likable.
While not my favourite production of the opera, that's the Jean-Pierre Ponelle film with Hermann Prey and Teresa Berganza, this Barber of Seville is so much fun.
The costumes are traditional in setting and look beautiful too without being too fancy. I liked the costumes in general too, Rosina's were stunning, and Sills in them, but I wasn't entirely crazy about Figaro's.
The conducting has the flair it should have, and the orchestra play stylistically. Of the staging the one that struck me as really effective were Largo Al Factotum for Titus' charisma and Una Voce Poca Fa and Dunque Io Son for the charm of Sills. The comic coincidences are all amusing, none of them fall flat, while for me the finale to act 1 was very exciting.
The performances are wonderful, the best being Beverly Sills' Rosina. I don't think she is in her prime here, however that is irrelevant when you hear how well she sings. She has a dazzling colouratura ability, plenty of agility and her voice is of true beauty and musicality. And is it me, or isn't she so charming and adorable, she makes a self-congratulatory character(in a sense) seem really likable.
Alan Titus is a terrific Figaro. Perhaps his semi-quaver runs in Dunque Io Son are not as secure as they could be, they are a bit choppy and pushed, but he more than compensates with his big hearty voice, charismatic presence and one of the most original and entertaining renditions of Largo Al Factotum I've heard in a while(my favourites of that aria being from Sherrill Milnes, Hermann Prey, Thomas Allen, Gino Quillico, Leo Nucci and Robert Merrill with honourable mentions to Leonard Warren, Ettore Bastianini and Lawrence Tibbett).
Henry Price is much more suited to Almaviva in my view than he is to Alfredo(La Traviata, which was well sung and dashing but sometimes bland). Here he is very dashing, particularly in All'Idea Quel Metallo, and interacts charmingly with Sills and Titus. His voice is beautiful and handles the runs well, and acting-wise he is witty and charming.
Donald Gramm is a Bartolo that is both amusing and grotesque. A Un Dottor Della Mia Sorte epitomises both these qualities, and Gramm does a terrific job with it, with some effective pattering. Vocally, it is a good voice with exciting vocal expression, and he is a solid actor too.
Samuel Ramey is one of my favourite Basilios alongside Ruggero Raimondi, though I have a soft spot also for Robert Lloyd, the production with Gino Quillico and Cecilia Bartoli was the one that introduced me to this opera. In fact along with Escamillo, Don Giovanni and King Phillip, Basilio is one of my favourite roles of his. Ramey has a wonderful and very powerful bass voice, and like Gramm he is a solid actor. He is especially good in La Calunnia.
All in all, an enormously fun production. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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