Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Opera Holland Park, OHP, June 2014Posted on 15 June 2014
Rossini’s Barber is always fun, and Oliver Platt’s new production for Opera Holland Park gives it a nineteenth century London touch, complete with lamplighters, Bow Street Runners and a drunken sot who claims his shilling as if he were one of the street musicians.
The designs by Neil Irish work very well in this context and I love the fact that Dr. Barotolo’s street corner house opens out to reveal its interior, showing the home of an untidy bachelor. No wonder Rosina wants to get out, even if she is willing to accept the scruffily disguised Count Almaviva, who first appears looking like a bookie at a racecourse. In this incarnation he was outsung by Nicholas Crawley as his servant Fiorello, though Nico Darmanian as the Count built up vocal strength in Act II. In the meantime Nicholas Crawley reappeared as a fine Don Basilio (with a mad hairstyle copied in Almaviva’s third disguise as his student in Act II) singing an excellent slander aria La calunnia è un venticello.
The warm tone of Kitty Whately as a pretty and determined Rosina was well matched by the strong vocal power of Nicholas Lester as Figaro, and their late Act I dialogue Dunque io son … was a delight. Figaro’s costume with its marvellous grey and crimson striped waistcoat added to his superb stage presence, making him more than a match for the shrewd yet bumbling buffo of Jonathan Veira as Dr. Bartolo, whose excellent comic timing, strong vocal presence and flawless Italian in the fast passages provided a firm foundation for the evening. The whole cast interacted well, particularly with the high jinks in the Act II quintet, which inspires Alinka Kozári as Bartolo’s maid to deliver a fine monologue on her master’s irascible and frenzied passion to marry the crazy Rosina.
Excellent lighting throughout by Mark Jonathan, including flashes of green, yellow and purple towards the end of Act I after the sextet, and subtle lightning flashes for the storm in Act II. Just to make one quibble about this witty production, the modern newsworthy allusions seemed out of place: the louche police practices with Almaviva’s papers being handed round to the entire team of Runners, and Almaviva in his second disguise as a soldier making a minor sexual assault on Berta. There was also some orchestral raggedness in the overture despite Matthew Waldren’s lively conducting, but overall this was a Barber of Seville to enchant any audience, and Opera Holland Park’s sets seem to have gone up a notch since last year.
Performances continue on various dates until June 28 — for details click here.