Review — Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera, July 2009


“Give us more Barbers”, said Beethoven to Rossini, and he was quite right. This opera is unsurpassable of its type, and its type is what Rossini was so good at. In this 2005 production by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier we had a marvellous cast. Unfortunately Juan Diego Flores did not perform, but Colin Lee took over his role as Almaviva, and with Alessandro Corbelli as Doctor Bartolo, Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Basilio, and Pietro Spagnoli as Figaro we had an excellent complement of male singers, who all sang extremely well. Ferruccio Furlanetto and Alessandro Corbelli are terrific singing actors with perfect comic timing, but what really made the evening was Joyce DiDonato as Rosina. Having broken her leg on the first nght, she was reduced to a wheelchair, but this did nothing to spoil her charm, her voice, or her ability to move around stage in anxious coquettishness. In fact the wheelchair was a most effective prop, amply demonstrating her entrapment. Who knows that it might not be used deliberately in another production!

The costumes by Agostino Cavalca are quite delightful, and match the stage design by Christian Fenouillat, which has hidden sliding doors that when closed make the house a box-like prison. It is a very clever production and I applaud the Royal Opera for bringing in such excellent directors for this and other popular operas. I only wish they could do the same for some of the twentieth century operas that they delight in putting on to bizarre productions by directors who are trying to be too clever by half.

The conducting by Antonio Pappano was very good as usual, though I felt it dragged a bit towards the end. The lighting design by Christoph Forey is wonderful, but the spot on Rosina, forced to be at the front of the stage in her wheelchair, was frequently absent. This is something that should have been fixed in earlier performances, since it is not the first one in which she was stage-front in a wheelchair.

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