The Barber of Seville, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, September 2015Posted on 29 September 2015
That this charmingly witty Jonathan Miller production is now in its twelfth revival speaks to its huge success, and once again we had the inimitable Andrew Shore as Dr Bartolo. His mixture of firm authority and bumbling over-enthusiasm, as when he gets his pince-nez caught in the harpsichord, was brilliantly conveyed, and this beautifully revived staging by David Relton is a gem of perfection.
Once again Katherine Broderick as Bartolo’s maid Berta sang an excellent Act II aria on the mania of love upsetting the household, but other cast members were new. From his first appearance, Australian baritone Morgan Pearse made a fine looking Figaro of engaging swagger and poetic inspiration, and the Act I incident where he jumps into a glass-fronted cupboard and overhears the plotting is one of the many joys of this production. With Barnaby Rea delivering an insidiously amusing calumny aria we had a Don Basilio of undoubted quality, interacting superbly with his friend Bartolo whose skilful ducking of Basilio’s elongated hat provided a beautiful exercise in comic timing.
Kathryn Rudge as Bartolo’s ward Rosina was somewhat underpowered, but showed theatrical panache and vocal flourish, and her clever misdirection in switching the letter with the laundry list was charmingly accomplished. As her beloved Almaviva, Mexican tenor Eleazar Rodriguez sang warmly after an uncertain start, excellent in his music teacher disguise if slightly overdoing the drunken soldier act.
Musical direction was in the very capable hands of young upcoming conductor Christopher Allen from Los Angeles, who kept singers and orchestra together beautifully, though occasionally missing some of the lightness and froth. In his UK debut and first performance in a major opera house it is clear that this 29-year-old will go far, and the ensemble singing was wonderful.
Among minor roles, Matthew Durkan was a commanding presence as Fiorello at the start, but it is Andrew Shore’s outstanding performance and brilliant comic timing as Dr. Bartolo that makes this a winner. Its commedia del arte inspiration provides a perfect opening for the season alongside the drama of the new Lady Macbeth.
Performances continue on various dates until November 11, with a live cinema screening on October 19 — for details click here.