Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Il Trovatore at Dutch National Opera

Four lonely people, bound by love and fate, with inexpressible feelings that boil over in the pressure cooker of war. Àlex Ollé’s conception of Il Trovatore for Dutch National Opera hits the bull’s eye.

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall

Is there anything that countertenor Iestyn Davies cannot do with his voice?

Prom 75: The Dream of Gerontius

BBC Proms Youth Choir shines in a performance notable for its magical transparency

Prom 67: Bernstein — Stage and Screen

The John Wilson Orchestra have been annual summer visitors to the Royal Albert Hall since their Proms debut in 2009 and, with their seductive blend of technical precision, buoyant glitziness and relaxed insouciance, their concerts have become a hugely anticipated fixture and a sure highlight of the Promenade season.

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.



Anna Grevelius ( Rosina ) John Tessier ( Almaviva ) [Photo by Alastair Muir]
06 Oct 2008

The Barber of Seville — English National Opera, London Coliseum

It can be difficult to inject life into a production which has been a staple of a company’s repertoire for over twenty years.

G. Rossini: The Barber of Seville

Figaro (Garry Magee); Rosina (Anna Grevelius); Count Almaviva (John Tessier); Bartolo (Andrew Shore); Don Basilio (Brindley Sherratt); Berta (Jennifer Rhys-Davies); Fiorello (Julian Hubbard). Conductor: Rory Macdonald. Original Director: Jonathan Miller. Revival Director: Ian Rutherford.

Above: Anna Grevelius (Rosina) John Tessier (Almaviva)

All photos by Alastair Muir courtesy of English National Opera


Jonathan Miller’s durable production of Rossini’s most popular opera has returned almost every second season since its 1987 première, and though it has its longueurs (as does the opera itself) the thing that has kept it fresh is its straightforward attractiveness and humour. The company’s casting department has a large part to play in its enduring success, too – Tanya McCallin’s straightforwardly functional period set is normally populated by a combination of company veterans and fresh and promising young artists, with the result that it always feels like a successful ensemble piece with an eternal spark of life.

One thing which wasn’t new was Andrew Shore’s Bartolo; he has become a fixture in this production, to the extent that on the advertisement posters scattered around London’s transport system it is his name alone that is emblazoned next to the title of the opera. His gift for delivering words when singing in English is quite unequalled, and he plays the staging’s physical comedy to maximum effect. Sometimes in the past this has resulted in an imbalance, because with Shore as Bartolo it takes a particularly strong and characterful Rosina to convince the audience that she could credibly get the better of him. Fortunately the young Swedish mezzo Anna Grevelius was his ideal foil; a beautiful girl who always had a glint in her eye, and whose warm and rounded tone and lovely sense of bel canto line were combined with pinpoint accuracy of pitch and diction.

The Canadian tenor John Tessier, making his house début, made an extremely personable and youthful Almaviva. If he was rather superficial, this was the production’s idea rather than his own; Rosina is seduced more by the idea of being swept off her feet by a romantic young man than the reality of what life might actually be like afterwards. He showed off his lovely light, easy and secure tone with some stratospheric ornamentation, though conductor Rory Macdonald would have done well to give him a little more space to prevent an occasional stridency and unevenness which crept into some of his fastest runs. He demonstrated a gift for comedy and character acting with both his disguises, and served equally well as an ardent romantic hero when required.

Of the major principals, only Garry Magee’s Figaro disappointed; the eponymous barber needs charisma and charm, and his entrance aria should be filled with unshakeable masculine confidence and panache, but often it felt as though he was just singing the notes.

The_Barber_of_Seville_005.pngJennifer Rhys-Davies (Berta) Anna Grevelius (Rosina) Garry Magee (Figaro) John Tessier (Almaviva) Andrew Shore (Doctor Bartolo) Brindley Sherratt (Don Basilio)

Brindley Sherratt’s oleaginous Don Basilio was a sinister delight, Julian Hubbard’s Fiorello was superbly sung, while Jennifer Rhys-Davies and Peter Kerr offered solid if slightly nondescript support as Berta and Ambrogio.

Two factors put this into a class above what could have been a run-of-the-mill revival of an ENO warhorse. Firstly it would appear that the original director, Jonathan Miller, might have had more of a hand in this revival of his than in any earlier run I can remember; various long-absent details have been restored, while much of the sillier business which the staging has acquired over the years, such as Ambrogio’s constant yawning and Berta’s incurable sneezing, has been mercifully consigned to the dustbin. More to the point, the cast had a real chemistry together, filled the stage with life, and looked and sounded as though they were really enjoying themselves.

Ruth Elleson © 2008

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):