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Recordings

Gioachino Rossini: II barbiere di Siviglia
23 Dec 2006

ROSSINI: Il barbeire di Siviglia

Rossini’s comic masterpiece premiered in 1816, which means a big anniversary lies just a few years ahead.

Gioachino Rossini: II barbiere di Siviglia

Joyce DiDonato, Roberto Sacca, Dalibor Jenis, Carlos Chausson, Kristinn Sigmundsson, Orchestre et Choeurs de l'Opera National de Paris, Bruno Campanella (cond.)

TDK DVWW-OPBARB [DVD]

$28.49  Click to buy

But with an evergreen crowd-pleaser such as Il barbeire di Siviglia, companies won’t wait to put on new productions. San Francisco Opera debuted its revolving house set in recent years, and the Metroplitan just inaugurated a new production, favorably reviewed, this season. TDK now releases a 2002 staging from the Paris Opera, directed by Coline Serreau and designed by Jean-Marc Stehlè and Antoine Fontaine.

Under the creators’ conception, the Seville of the story remains under Moorish rule. In fact, the city seems to have been transplanted to a North African desert. Arab nomads accompany the Count as he walks through a desert landscape to serenade Rosina outside Dr. Bartolo’s stone and wood dwelling. Later, the interior of Bartolo’s home brings some welcome color, of turquiose and then gold. The final tableaux has the happy young lovers wandering off into an oasis of sprouting palm trees.

Why? Perhaps just because it looks cool. At least the creators had the good sense not to make the Count a European who rescues Rosina from her oppressive Arab master, which would have been a troublesome interpretation in this day and age. However, they have made Figaro a ridiculuously anachronistic figure, with a beach-umbrella hat and cell phones of various colors hooked to his sleeve. In other words, don’t think about it. Just enjoy the show.

The show can best be enjoyed once Joyce DiDonato’s Rosina appears. An appealing stage presence, DiDonato in her short career has already made her Rosina a classic interpretation: lively, clever, and always beautifully sung. The only singer near her class here is Kristinn Sigmundson, whose handsome bass makes Don Basillio a more appealing figure than usual.

The three other major male roles get adequate performances, not much more. Roberto Sacca’s Almaviva has the right energy but the tone isn’t especially attractive. Dalibor Jenis needs to expend a more energy in a role such as Figaro if he is going to deserve having the opera’s title. As Bartolo, Carlos Chausson does well by the character’s comic villainy; once again, the voice is nothing special.

Jeanette Fischer, the Berta, throws a few wild “hip-hop” moves in her very funny solo number.

Bruno Campanella conducts the score with the kind of affection that matters — an appreciation for Rossini’s orchestral color and flexibility.

With a cast that could match DiDonato’s inspiration, this DVD would be a must-see. As it is, lovers of this opera can still find much to enjoy, including an amusing credit sequence (under the overture) . And perhaps a helpful Opera Today reader can explain to this reviewer why, when Figaro schemes to get the house key from Dr. Bartolo, the subtitle has him wishfully thinking that with the key, “We’d be home and hosed.”

Chris Mullins

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