Introducing... Il barbiere di Siviglia
Our Introducing series explores the heat-soaked comedy of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia
In this installment we take a look at Rossini’s sizzling comedy, Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville).
Il barbiere di Siviglia is the glittering jewel in Rossini’s musical crown, one of the great comic operas of all time. According to Verdi it was the greatest of them all.
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, Il barbiere di Siviglia 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’(The Independent), Annabel Arden’s stylish staging celebrates Il barbiere’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 Dalí 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 Il barbiere 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 returns to the role she made her own in the opera’s original Glyndebourne run, where she brought the house down each night 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’ (The Independent) in 2016’s original Glyndebourne production, Alessandro Corbelli (hailed as a ‘tour de farce’ by bachtrack) and Janis Kelly (‘a showstopper’ – The Stage) return for this first Festival revival to reprise their roles as the lecherous Dr Bartolo and his long-suffering housekeeper Berta.
South Korean soprano Hera Hyesang Park stars as charming minx Rosina, she returns following her appearance as Naiad in Ariadne auf Naxos in 2017. Prize-winning South African tenor Levy Sekgapane makes his Glyndebourne debut as Count Almaviva. Baritone Andrey Zhilikhovsky – a smooth-operating Malatesta in 2017’s Don Pasquale – returns as scheming barber Figaro.
This first Festival revival of Annabel Arden’s 2016 production with designs by Joanna Parker is conducted by Rafael Payare, the charismatic young Venezuelan, who is rapidly making a name for the dynamism and brilliance of his performances.
In this episode of the Glyndebourne podcast Katie Derham digs deeper into Rossini’s comedy of class and manners.
Image credits: Il barbiere di Siviglia header, painted collage by Shadric Toop | Il barbiere di Siviglia, Festival 2016, photos by Bill Cooper | Hera Hyesang Park in rehearsals for Ariadne auf Naxos, Festival 2017, photo by James Bellorini