Introducing… The Barber of Seville
Everything you need to know about The Barber of Seville, which is available to watch online for free as part of Glyndebourne Open House on Sunday 19 July
In this instalment of our Introducing series we explore Annabel Arden’s lively production.
The Barber of Seville is part of Glyndebourne Open House – a weekly series of free operas, available on YouTube.
A brief introduction:
The Barber of Seville is the glittering operatic jewel in Rossini’s musical crown, one of the great comic operas of all time – the greatest of all, according to no less an authority than Verdi.
Rossini inherited a style of comic opera full of stock situations and cardboard characters and brought it into vibrant, three-dimensional, technicolour life with this ground-breaking work. For the first time, music was not just an empty vehicle for virtuosity, but an expression of emotion and character.
This new philosophy gives us a heroine – the spirited Rosina – quite unlike any other, a young woman absolutely in control of her romantic destiny, whatever the men around her might think. It also helped shape one of opera’s most charismatic heroes – the quick-thinking and even quicker-singing barber Figaro, whose ‘Largo al factotum’ has become one of the best-loved arias in the repertoire.
With everything from intimate love-music and bravura arias to crowded comic finales, The Barber of Seville is a blissful evening of musical comedy – as uproarious as it is sophisticated.
Why not to miss it:
Praised by the critics as ‘A triumphant celebration of Rossini’s musical genius…pulling off trick after trick with such speed and deftness that the eye is constantly delighted and dazzled’, Annabel Arden’s stylish staging celebrates The Barber of Seville’s setting in a production infused with Spanish surrealism and Mediterranean warmth.
Expect the unexpected in this bold, colourful reimagining of a classic comedy, where nothing is ever quite as it seems. Harpsichords take flight, cassocks catch fire, mysterious, masked figures drift through your dreams, and surely that soldier looks familiar…
Catching the crisp wit and swift pacing that are the engine of Rossini’s opera, Arden adds a little flamenco, just a touch of Dali and a whole lot of harpsichords to create a production with contemporary flair that stays absolutely true to the original zany, irrepressible spirit of the piece.
A great moment to look out for:
Think of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and you might remember Figaro’s witty word-play and dazzling patter-singing in ‘Largo al factotum’, Rosina’s vivacious musical charm, or the slick, slapstick comedy of the Act I finale, but in Annabel Arden’s staging it’s actually Dr Bartolo’s housekeeper Berta who is responsible for one of the most memorable moments.
Veteran soprano Janis Kelly makes the role her own – she brought the house down every night of the production’s 2016 run with her Act II aria ‘Il vechiotto cerca moglie’. Lamenting the madness of the household in which she works, Berta knows exactly where to put the blame: love. In Arden’s hands, this jaunty little aria becomes a Broadway-style dance routine. Berta struts her stuff in a flamenco-inspired number, pressing one of the workmen into reluctant service as her partner. It’s a performance The Telegraph dubbed ‘outrageous’ and ‘scene-stealing’ – a masterclass in charisma and comic timing.
Cast and creative team:
Heading up a ‘dream cast’ in Annabel Arden’s 2016 production is soprano Danielle de Niese, full of ‘fiery theatricality’ as charming minx Rosina. She’s joined by German baritone Björn Bürger (a memorable Papageno in Glyndebourne’s recent Die Zauberflöte), ‘musically and dramatically beyond compare’ as the ingenious barber Figaro, and American tenor Taylor Stayton whose ‘extraordinarily pure and mellifluous bel canto tenor’ makes a captivating romantic hero out of the young Count Almaviva.
Veterans Alessandro Corbelli (whose performance as Dr Bartolo was hailed at the premiere as a ‘tour de farce’) and Janis Kelly (‘a showstopper’) as his long-suffering housekeeper Berta complete the cast.
The performance is conducted by bel canto specialist Enrique Mazzola, who ‘teases out all the wit of the score with barbed delicacy’ delivering an account that’s ‘spot on in its combination of energy and exactitude’.
Image credits: The Barber of Seville, Festival 2016 | photos by Bill Cooper