Barber of Seville, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, Oct 2017Posted on 6 October 2017
This truly wonderful production by Jonathan Miller, now in its thirteenth revival, is a star in the ENO firmament, and a friend seeing it for the first time was bowled over by the costumes, sets and lighting.
Under revival director Peter Relton, whose Tosca launched the new Grange Park opera this past summer, it looks as fresh as ever. His attention to detail brings out the charm of Miller’s original conception, with Sarah Tynan as a deliciously quick witted, and very beautiful, Rosina. Her spontaneous movement, excellent diction and charming coloratura were sheer delight and I can still see her niftily switching the letter with the laundry list, out of sight of her guardian Dr Bartolo.
In that role, Alan Opie — the original Figaro in this production — was a natural, suppressing the urge to overdo the theatrics and not appearing the fool he can sometimes be. It was a wonderful portrayal. As Figaro, Australian baritone Morgan Pearse was a hugely welcome stage presence, repeating the engaging swagger and subtle misdirection of his performance two years ago but not above hopping nimbly into a cupboard to overhear Bartolo explaining his plans to Don Basilio. As this hypocritical music teacher, Alastair Miles gave a fine portrayal, with wicked Fagin-like expressiveness in his calumny aria.
Altogether an excellent team, and if the Count Almaviva of Eleazar Rodriguez got off to an unsteady vocal start and appeared a bit clueless in his initial serenade, he made up for it later with his warm tenor and witty performance in the music teacher disguise, if somewhat overdoing the drunken soldier scene. Among supporting roles, Yvonne Howard made a very fine Berta, with super diction and an excellent Act II aria on the upsets caused by all this amorous intrigue, and repeating his 2015 performance, Matthew Durkan was a commanding presence as Almaviva’s servant Fiorello at the start.
Holding together cast and orchestra, conductor Hilary Griffiths in his ENO debut gave Rossini’s music a full-blooded performance, though I might have preferred a lighter touch and faster tempi at times. Yet this superb opera, based on a Beaumarchais play that Marie Antoinette loved to put on in her own theatre while it was not yet allowed public performance, can hardly go wrong, and the first night audience clearly enjoyed every witty twist and turn.
Performances continue on various dates until October 30 — for details click here.