Very enjoyable production of one of my favourite operas
Clichéd as it may sound, out of Rossini's operas, The Barber of Seville or Il Barbiere Di Siviglia is my favourite of all. It has a great story filled with many fun coincidences, sublime music and a zany, entertaining titular character in the name of Figaro.
This is a most enjoyable production. Brian Large does a fine job directing the opera, the costumes and sets are nice and traditional and the video directing is excellent. The orchestra play with style, and Ralf Weikert's conducting is suitably snappy.
The music as I've said is sublime. Perhaps the most well-known aria and justifiably so is the baritone showpiece Largo Al Factotum, such a fun piece but fiendishly difficult, especially the high A followed by a descending scale and the bravissimo section that I often sense a lot of stewing over even in performance. But that is not to exclude Una Voce Poca Fa, La Calunnia, A un Dottor Della Mia Sorte, Dunque Io son and All'idea Di Quel Metallo either; musically there is a lot to love about The Barber of Seville.
The performances are great. Rockwell Blake is a dashing and likable Almaviva with a handsome figure on stage, and his tenor is nice and effortless. Enzo Dara and Ferruccio Furtanello are very good as Bartolo and Basilio respectively.
I must disagree with the previous reviewers regarding Kathaleen Battle. I am not disputing whether she was difficult and a Prima Donna, but part of me thinks that's not a fair enough reason to criticise her performance for. Here, while she has been better, she does act very well, has witty and charming chemistry with Blake and Nucci especially and has a light and enchanting voice that is perfect for Rosina.
The highlight though is Figaro, wonderfully played by Leo Nucci. Nucci for me is a fine baritone and one of the better Figaros this side of the twentieth century. Acting-wise he is always entertaining and has an appealing voice that is used to good effect without overdoing it. His Largo Al factotum is also one of the better renditions I've heard, along with Prey, Gino Quillico, Merrill and Milnes he nails the bravissimo section while I have known others(including Pasquale Amato, blast from the past) to rush through it, the interpretation is original and entertaining and vocally- and this is the same with All'idea Di Quel Metallo and Dunque Io son where you can kind of sense a feeling of admiration for him from his co-stars- he performs with terrific gusto.
Overall, very enjoyable. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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