Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

'In my end is my beginning': Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida perform Winterreise at Wigmore Hall

All good things come to an end, so they say. Let’s hope that only the ‘good thing’ part of the adage is ever applied to Wigmore Hall, and that there is never any sign of ‘an end’.

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny bring 'sweet music' to Wigmore Hall

Countertenor Iestyn Davies and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny kicked off the final week of live lunchtime recitals broadcast online and on radio from Wigmore Hall.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

From Our House to Your House: live from the Royal Opera House

I’m not ashamed to confess that I watched this live performance, streamed from the stage of the Royal Opera House, with a tear in my eye.

Woman’s Hour with Roderick Williams and Joseph Middleton at Wigmore Hall

At the start of this lunchtime recital, Roderick Williams set out the rationale behind the programme that he and pianist Joseph Middleton presented at Wigmore Hall, bringing to a close a second terrific week of live lunchtime broadcasts, freely accessible via Wigmore Hall’s YouTube channel and BBC Radio 3.

Francisco Valls' Missa Regalis: The Choir of Keble College Oxford and the AAM

In the annals of musical controversies, the Missa Scala Aretina debate does not have the notoriety of the Querelle des Bouffons, the Monteverdi-Artusi spat, or the audience-shocking premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

Two song cycles by Sir Arthur Somervell: Roderick Williams and Susie Allan

Robert Browning, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Charles Kingsley, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, A.E. Housman … the list of those whose work Sir Arthur Somervell (1863-1937) set to music, in his five song-cycles, reads like a roll call of Victorian poetry - excepting the Edwardian Housman.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

21 Aug 2014

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Pesaro

Both by default and by merit Il barbiere di Siviglia is the hit of the thirty-fifth Rossini Opera Festival. But did anyone really want, and did the world really need yet another production of this old warhorse?

Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Rossini Opera Festivall

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Juan Francisco Gatell as Almaviva, Chiara Amarù as Rosina [All photos courtesy of the Rossini Opera Festival]

 

The Rossini Opera Festival’s answer to this question was inspired. Its conceit was to stage a semi-staged Barber, stripping the production of any pretense of importance, and avoiding the thankless challenge to some unfortunate stage director of discovering a brilliant new perspective (there are those who remember the Pesaro staging some years ago by Luigi Squarzina — he placed the action in the Teatro Anatomico [the medieval dissection room] of Bologna’s famous, ancient medical school).

So now in Pesaro there was not even a stage director, but a class from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Urbino who conceived, staged, designed and executed the physical production (an un-named professor did admit to some coordination). There were approximately thirty twenty-somes who took a bow.

The production, and it was a fully staged semi-staged production, alternated between hijinks, caricature, slapstick, assault, nonsense and genius utilizing every inch and orifice of the Teatro Rossini to get us through the score we know so well. Most of it occurred on the floor of the platea (the orchestra section), deftly finding its way onto the stage apron for the big arias. “Largo al Factotum” and “Una voce poco fa” for example were delivered concert style but in magnified visual relief — Rosina clothed/costumed in a discrete concert black dress, Figaro decked out like an adventurous audience member clothes horse.

Barber_ROF2.png

The big ensembles of course occurred on the stage, presentationally, and lest we forget that we were observers we watched a lone observer, patently passive, eternal, seated on the stage watching as well. The boxes in the walls of the Italian horseshoe theater were integrated into the action, audience so seated had to get out of the way when the action trampled through their box, the walls of the tiered horseshoe even transformed themselves into lighted scenery making the world a stage.

The staging was a series of lazzi (commedia dell’arte visual tricks) blown up to supersized proportion, and you were in the middle of it. This was the concept and it worked marvelously. It was a masterpiece of casting —excellent, matched singing actors who animated the Rossini magic of great music working through the age-old comic process — youth outsmarting age. And this production was just that — the creativity and exuberance of these Urbino students dismissed the experience, perspective and intelligence of a metteur en scène.

It was also the limitation of this extraordinary evening.

Barber_ROF3.png

It was platinum casting. Young French baritone Florian Sempey may as well be named Giacomo Rossini. He is the spit and image of the twenty-four year-old Rossini of 1816, overflowing with musical energy and unfettered fun. His Italian was perfection, his patter exceeded the speed of light. In short he is the Figaro of your dreams. Upstaged, and then only briefly by Italian bass Alex Esposito as Basilio who in a simple black cossack fingering his rosary oiled his way onto the stage to deliver “la calunnia” knelt in fervent prayer, roaring divine strength and terror to Dr. Bartolo, confessionally kneeling as well. The Basilio of your dreams.

Italian baritone Paolo Bordogna achieved unusual presence as Bartolo, and won us over to a real understanding of a man obsessed by the delights of his table and his fear of germs. He was a not too old, not too ugly, just a fully humanized Bartolo whose obsessed patter too exceeded the speed of light, But he was foiled by the truly dumb antics of his coltraltino (a light voiced, high Rossini tenor) competition — what operatic tenors lack in intelligence they make up in fervor. This was Argentine tenor Juan Francisco Gatell who obliged Rossini’s idea of articulate, gurgling youth to the maximum.

Rosina, Sicilian mezzo Chiara Amarù, needless to say stood in box overlooking the stage (displacing its inhabitants) while she was serenaded by Almaviva. She wore a big post-adolescent smile all evening, except when she sang, and then it was replaced by deadly serious, positively astonishing coloratura. The depth of casting included a sixty-some Berta, that of sixty-some Italian soprano Felicia Bongiovanni, and even a strong voiced Fiorello, Andrea Vincenzo Bonsignore, who displayed intimidating smarts and later, as the Ufficiale, entered the auditorium astride the full-sized rolling horse we saw in the lobby as we entered the theater.

Not to forget the male chorus, members of the local amateur chorus, the Coro San Carlo di Pesaro, who filed on and off the stage, concert style, to wheezily debunk whatever possible sense of fancy opera that might still be present. This wonderful Coro completed the sense of community — Rossini, artists, audience — that the perpetrators of this evening succeeded in creating.

It was finally an evening about words, every word of the comedy clearly articulated and understandable. This was made possible by the perfection of the pit. Young Italian conductor Giacomo Sagripanti coaxed the members of the orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna to an always comfortable level of delirium that supported and completed the delirium of the singers and the staging. This careful balance in fact made the young Rossini the true star of the show.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information:

Figaro: Florian Sempey; Rosina: Chiara Amarù; Count Almaviva: Juan Francisco Gatell; Bartolo: Paolo Bordogna; Basilio:Alex Esposito; Berto Felicia Bongiovanni; Fiorello: Andrea Vincenzo Bonsignore; Ambrogio: Alberto Pancrazi. Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. Coro San Carlo di Pesaro. Conductor: Giacomo Sagripanti; Concept/projections/scenic elements/stage movements/video/costumes: Accademia di Belle Arti di Urbino. Teatro Rossini, Pesaro, August 14, 2014.

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):