I love opera, and I have always loved Il Barbiere Di Siviglia, one of Rossini's best works and an example of Opera Buffa at its finest. Of the productions I've seen the Jean Pierre Ponnelle film and the 1989 production with Nucci and Battle are my favourites. I also very much like the 1988 production with Quillico and Bartoli and the 2005 Madrid performance.
This production is good if not great. The story is great, as well as the music, characters and comic coincidences. The orchestra and conducting are wonderful, with lots of energy and style.
What didn't quite work for me were the costumes and staging. The sets were quite good on the other hand. The costumes were strange to say the least, especially Figaro with the umbrella hat and the spectacles. Rosina also is wearing a Turkish pyjama outfit, and Almaviva's costume of a generic Middle Eastern kind. Bartolo strangely is more reminiscent of Fagin, which may upset those looking for a Spanish doctor, but in terms of character it worked surprisingly.
Looking at the staging, it was sprightly enough but seemed as though someone was trying too hard. I could have done with less of the melodramatic takes and random choreography, the end of act 1, one of the opera's highlights, came across as a little too cluttered.
I will say though I liked the sound, picture quality and a lot of camera work, it was all very clear and precise.
There is also some fantastic singing. Although I do like him, Roberto Sacca was rather inconsistent as Almaviva. There are places where he is good, he was hilarious at the start and Pace Goia Si Con Voi was nicely done. However, in other places there is some sloppy colouratura and on the high C in his act 1 caballetta he cracks visibly. That said, he is also suitably athletic and his comic timing is good.
Kristin Sigmundssen was very good as Basilio. I loved how stately and tall he was, and his La Calunnia was vocally and characteristically rich, menacing and funny. Dalibor Jenis is excellent as Figaro, dapper with great style and ensemble singing. Largo Al Factotum was superb.
Joyce DiDonato is a wonderful Rosina, she is dazzling to watch and displays incredible passage work and a full creamy voice. There was a bit of staging I found quite effective, which was for her to sing Una Voce Poca Fa from behind the grating initially, it didn't elude her voice at all and it emphasised her imprisonment very well actually.
Carlos Chaussen was just marvellous, he was very amusing and very grotesque. And not only is he a good actor, both on stage and vocally, his voice is gorgeous and his attention to enunciate and connect with the text is more than evident. A Un Dottor Della Mia Sorte is one of the better renditions of that difficult aria I've seen.
That's not to dispute the performances of Jeanette Fischer and Nicholas Garrett as Berta and Fiorello, both characters normally forgettable save a few exceptions but due to the quality of the performances they weren't.
Overall, the staging and costumes didn't bowl me over but the singing and music did. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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