The Barber of Seville, English Touring Opera, ETO, Hackney Empire, March 2012Posted on 9 March 2012
Clever designs and glorious costumes by Rhys Jarman give a fine dramatic underpinning for this production of Rossini’s Barber, and Grant Doyle made a marvellous entrance as the barber, Figaro.
This was the first night, and after a nervous start things came together in Act II. Kitty Whately made a beautifully inspiring Rosina, mistress of the situation despite the machinations of her guardian Dr. Bartolo along with his friend and her singing teacher Don Basilio. Alan Fairs was a super Basilio, giving this amoral and ridiculous character a slightly threatening aspect in his dealings with Bartolo, and the doctor himself was commandingly performed, with excellent diction, by Andrew Slater, whose attempt at joining the singing lesson in Act II was wittily out of tune. The role of Rosina’s lover, Count Almaviva in his various disguises is not an easy one to pull off well, but after a shaky start, Nicholas Sharratt proved himself a passionate and determined fellow.
Direction by Thomas Guthrie gave perhaps too much humour to the stage action at some points, but this might settle down later in the tour. For instance in late Act I when Almaviva surreptitiously shows the police chief his identity the entire police squad is utterly cowed, but then rather strangely a moment later they grab hold of him without the least hesitation. The orchestra under the direction of Paul McGrath was a bit ragged in parts, and I would have liked to see more lightness of touch in the overture where the Rossinian bounce was lacking.
But in terms of sets, costumes and lighting this is a lovely production, and the singing was very fine. Kitty Whately is someone to watch out for, and Grant Doyle is a superbly versatile performer who played the lead role in a new opera at Covent Garden’s Linbury Studio, which was arguably the best new production the Royal Opera House put on in 2011. He continues in the role until April 13.
After a second performance at the Hackney Empire on Saturday, 10 March, this production tours to: Exeter Northcott, 20, 22, 23 March; Hall for Cornwall, Truro, 26, 28 March; Lighthouse, Poole, 30 March; York Theatre Royal, 3 Apr; Norwich Theatre Royal, 10 Apr; Snape Maltings Concert Hall, 13 Apr; Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, 16, 18 Apr; The Hawth, Crawley, 20 Apr; G Live Guildford, 23 Apr; Buxton Opera House, 26, 28 Apr; Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, 1, 3, 4 May; Warwick Arts Centre, 9, 12 May; Gala Theatre, Durham, 14 May; Perth Festival, Perth Theatre, 17, 19 May; Cambridge Arts Theatre, 22, 24, 25 May — for details click here.