Laughing out loud: The Barber of Seville at ENOReview
I’m traditionally not a Rossini fan, or even much of an Italian opera fan - I found myself sitting in the Coliseum, wondering why I was listening to the overture of Rossini’s iconic Barber of Seville. I was prepared to be bored. But from the moment the curtain went up, I was captivated by the intense amount of energy and playfulness portrayed on the stage. There were a few hiccoughs, as there often are on an opening night (a few dropped props and a few dead moments in the comedy, as well as a few moments where the singers were not quite with the orchestra). Despite that, I found myself actually laughing out loud to the on-stage antics: all the leads had excellent comedic timing and the comedy was very cleverly considered.
Count Almaviva was sung by Eleazar Rodríguez, a singer who had as much energy in his stage presence as he did in his singing. He brilliantly toed the line between goofy and sincerely lovestruck, playing the character of Almaviva full of youthful optimism and romantic determination. His singing, too, was wonderful - his lovely leggiero voice handled the technical demands of Rossini with ease. He particularly shone vocally in his tender love song under Rosina’s window in act I, which managed to be both beautifully sincere and funny.
He was incredibly well matched by all his colleagues on stage: Morgan Pearse was a wonderful Figaro, with a full, rich voice that moved with ease and a natural confidence on stage. He and Rodríguez were a wonderful pair, bouncing comedy off each other with ease. Doctor Bartolo (Alan Opie), too, had a voice and hilarity to be reckoned with - he was especially remarkable pursuing the disguised Almaviva about his parlour in the Act I finale. Basilio was played by Alastair Miles: a lurching, bumbling greasy music master. He sang wonderfully, though he seemed to be overly aware that he was telling jokes and slightly spoiled the punchline by grinning too soon.
Rosina, sung by Sarah Tynan, was also wonderful. She was believable as a clever, resourceful young woman with a healthy dose of her own comedic moments. Her “Una voce poco fa” was beautifully sung, handled with ease and expression, though the staging of the ending fell a little flat.
As mentioned before, there were a few hiccoughs in the presentation that will need ironing out, particularly tempi between singers and conductor. There were a few places in arias and large ensemble numbers where the singers seemed to want a faster tempo and left the orchestra behind. But overall, it was a presentation to be proud of from the ENO. I was also unusually impressed by the English translation, a statement I never thought I would make. It was full of funny jokes, brilliant rhyming, and was even not so repetitive as to become nauseating.
The Barber of Seville runs at English National Opera through October 30. For details and ticket information, follow our box office links below.