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ROSSINI. The Barber of Seville. A buffo opera in two acts composed in 1816. A digital recording by the Metropolitan Opera 1989. Conductor Ralf Weiker. Stage production John Cox. Video. Deutsche Grammophon 072 414-3.




Count d'Almaviva :Rockwell Blake
Bartolo: Enzo Dara
Rosina: Kathleen Battle
Figaro: Leo Nucci
Basilio: Ferruccio Furlanetto
Fiorello: David Hamilton
Ambrogio: Edward Ghazal
Berta: Loretta Di Franco
An official: Charles Antony

The story is well known. It tells of an elderly doctor in Seville, Dr Bartolo, who longs for further riches and position and therefore plans to marry his young ward, Rosina who has been left a fortune. To this end, he keeps her as a 'prisoner' in his house although maintaining a friendly disposition towards her. Somehow, Count Almaviva has seen her and fallen in love with her and uses devious means to court her and hopefully marry her. He reveals his identity under a false name of 'Lindoro' ostensibly to see if Rosina loves him for if she does not he will not pursue her any more.

And if you believe that you will believe anything!

Figaro is Dr Bartolo's barber and has access to the physician's house; Figaro is also an acquaintance of the Count and the barber's behaviour makes the doctor suspicious. Basilio tells the doctor that any abduction of Rosina can be prevented if the Count's reputation can be destroyed.

And so on!

I suppose the famous performer here is Kathleen Battle and she is generally very good. Her top notes are exquisite and she certainly looks Spanish in the second act. But even a star of her deserved magnitude is outshone here by two of the men. Enzo Dara as Dr Bartolo is simply superb in his pill-popping comic role. He is simply stunning in the rapid vocal lines that were a feature of Rossini. He is outstanding in the aria A un dottor della mia sorte. A performance that makes you want to clap and stand before it ends.

The other star is Ferruccio Furlanetto as Basilio. His aria La calunnia e un venticello is delivered with enthusiastic panache.

The first act ends with one of those brilliant Rossini sextets and a scene of absolute chaos.

Leo Nucci makes a convincing Figaro and the rest of the cast is good. The weak link is Rockwell Blake as the Count. His acting does not suit the part and his intonation is often suspect. And he looks more like a tennis player than a Count.

The production is good and benefits from its conventional design. It belongs to the period in question. The sets are also acceptable, as are the costumes which, like the production, firmly belongs to the right epoch, The camera work is generally relevant although I, for one, would have preferred a constant 'shot' showing all the singers when perfoming in ensemble. There are no silly effect - what we have is an honest and realistic production.

However, it takes takes well over an hour to get going and it seems that Enzo Dara suddenly decides that the performance is flat and so he livens it up ... and how well he does it. The only other complaint is that, as usual, there is applause between numbers and even applause for Kathleen Battle before she sings a note! While realising that this is what happens in this opera house, it is annoying since it breaks the continuity of the opera and again poses the question, "Have we come primarily to enjoy Rossini or to admire the glamorous Kathleen Battle?"

The finale to the second act is quite superbly performed and is another of those therapeutic Rossini conclusions.

But the genius is Rossini and the star of this production is Enzo Dara.


David Wright


David Wright

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