Opera of the Month

Il barbiere di Siviglia

We take a look at Annabel Arden’s lively production of Il barbiere di Siviglia. Subscribers can watch now on Glyndebourne Encore.

Every month on Glyndebourne Encore – our new streaming service – we’ll be shining the spotlight on an opera, offering you deeper insights into extraordinary productions.

January’s Opera of the Month on Glyndebourne Encore is Annabel Arden’s lively production of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia.

Over on Glyndebourne Encore, subscribers can watch Il barbiere di Siviglia in full, and enjoy an exclusive introduction from opera specialist Alexandra Coghlan who talks to conductor Enrique Mazzola about his love for Rossini and designer Joanna Parker about bringing Anabel Arden’s vision to life.

Brief introduction:

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.

In this episode of the Glyndebourne podcast Katie Derham digs deeper into Rossini’s comedy of class and manners.

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.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Festival 2016 | Photo by Bill Cooper

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:

Soprano Danielle de Niese stars as charming Rosina alongside baritone Björn Bürger as scheming barber Figaro. Baritone Alessandro Corbelli takes on the role of lecherous Dr Bartolo with soprano Janis Kelly as his long-suffering housekeeper Berta.

Annabel Arden’s 2016 production includes designs by Joanna Parker and is conducted by Rafael Payare.

Subscribe to Glyndebourne Encore to watch Il barbiere di Siviglia now!

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