Sunday, 1 November 2015

'The Barber of Seville' at The Coliseum

On Friday we went to see the English National Opera's production of 'The Barber Of Seville' by Rossini at the Coliseum. This was my first 'proper' full length opera - I saw the new 'Peter Pan' opera by the Welsh National Opera which I found terribly disappointing and trite so I was hoping for better things from a 'proper' opera, something that's stood the test of 200 years. I didn't really know what to expect and know the story of the opera but, luckily, it was sung in English so that helped.

'The Barber' is a comic opera and it did have some laugh out loud moments. It's the tale of Count Almaviva and his love for young Rosina, the ward of Dr Bartolo who is minded to marry her himself. It begins with the Count in disguise in ordinary clothing rather than his more courtly flamboyance outside the window of Bartolo's house with a group of musicians to serenade his love when she opens the curtains in the morning. It all goes wrong when Bartolo spoils the fun but the Count meets Figaro, the famous barber, in the street and tells him his tale of woes. Figaro instantly comes up with some ideas that will get the Count inside to meet Rosina - for a fee, of course.

And that's where the story takes off and the comic scenes get more and more daft, with Almaviva first acting like a drunk soldier to get into the house, pretending to be billeted there and later as a music tutor. The schemes all go wrong of course but at least the lovers meet. In the final scene we see Almaviva as the Count in all his finery and all goes well for the lovers, but not for grumpy old Bartolo. And the barber is handsomely rewarded - he is the best barber in Seville after all, as he keeps reminding us.

I didn't really know what to expect but I enjoyed it - and it helped that it was in English (but I still read the surtitles above the stage - those operatic voices y'know). This was a revival of Jonathan Miller's production from the '90s and was fast-oaced and kept the action going with no pauses. The set was lovely - Bartolo's drawing room - but surprisingly small on that big stage, with the set taking up slightly more than half of the available space. There were some great voices and my only criticism is that the players aren't quite, ahem, as young as they're meant to be playing. But there I go with the ageism…

I'm pleased that Almaviva and Rosina got together and probably had a lovely life together but you just know that that Figaro, the barber, gets into more scrapes along the way - he's that sort.

So there we have it, a comic opera under my belt. Now I need something more serious and have already booked tickets to 'La Traviata' at the Royal Opera House next year. Watch this space!

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