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Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il Barbiere di Siviglia (‘The Barber of Seville’) - comic opera in two acts
Count Almaviva…Richard Croft
Doctor Bartolo…Renato Capecchi
Rosina…Jennifer Larmore
Figaro…David Malis
Basilio…Simone Alaimo
Berta…Leonie Schoon
Fiorello/Officer…Roger Smeets
Chorus of the Netherlands Opera
Bauke Van Der Meer (piano); Rolf Hock (guitar)
Netherlands Chamber Orchestra/Alberto Zedda
First produced in 1987. This Dario Fo staging is a 1992 co-production by NOS/RM ARTS/DNO
ARTHAUS MUSIK 100 412 [154 mins]


For those who might think opera boring, stuffy and static, I recommend that they take a look at this Dario Fo production. From the rise of the curtain to the curtain calls, there is never a dull moment. This production of The Barber of Seville raises farce to the sublime. Blink and you will miss something. The stage is in constant movement. The pace is frenetic. Right from the start of Rossini’s overture, a frantic Harlequinade unfolds as the characters push some of the remaining scenery into position; the beautifully detailed, but modular sets are so designed that they drop down, or are moved easily into place by the actors so that the pace of the production is never slackened. The stage props are frequently hilarious, often ingenious: the artful pantomime horse; the large twirling umbrella that ‘gives birth’ to many smaller ones propelled around the stage as Basilio craftily suggests that the planned slander of Count Almaviva will spread on ‘gusts of wind’. Then there is the transformation of Doctor Bartolo into a clone of Don Quixote, bested by Almaviva in his first impersonation, as a drunken soldier, to get close to his beloved Rosina. These are just three visual delights amongst many. Lighting and sets are excellent.

As Figaro, chubby-cheeked baritone, David Malis, may appear too boyish for some and his singing could be more expressive. Think of Thomas Allen, for instance, and how he could invest so much meaning into each of those Figaros. Lyric tenor Richard Croft is an energetic Almaviva, ardent and enthusiastically prepared to act the fool. The singing legend, Renato Capecchi, is an inspired Doctor Bartolo, crafty and grasping yet vulnerably gullible. His angry tongue-twisting Act I patter song is one of the highlights of the production. But my fullest admiration is reserved for the impressive range of the velvety chocolate-toned young American mezzo-soprano, Jennifer Larmore as a cheeky and wily Rosina. Simone Alaimo is suitably grasping and greasy as Basilio while Leonie Schoon is well cast as the long-suffering, somewhat clumsy maid, Berta. Roger Smeets fills in two contrasting roles as the ebullient Fiorello and the pompous army officer. The chorus and the dancers who fill the stage with so much colour and fun are very good too. Excellently co-ordinating it all, and leading a very exuberant Netherlands Chamber Orchestra is Alberto Zedda.

An energetic, nay frenetic production full of fun and colour with some outstanding singing - unhesitatingly recommended.

Ian and Grace Lace


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