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The Barber of Seville review – Miller’s 1987 staging still sparkles | Opera – Gündem Haberleri

The Barber of Seville review – Miller’s 1987 staging still sparkles | Opera

The English National Opera season continues with a revival by Peter Relton of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 staging of Rossini’s great comedy of love, class, money and manipulation, still a wonderfully engaging piece of theatre nearly four decades after it was first seen. The multiple casts that have come and gone over the years have inevitably resulted in shifts of emphasis and sometimes mood – some of its past outings have felt fractionally more barbed than on this occasion.

It remains marvellously witty and astute, particularly in its depiction of a world where everyone seems to be on the make, but we’re now less immediately aware, perhaps, of the grotesque, slightly sinister way which Dr Bartolo (Simon Bailey) immures Rosina (Anna Devin) in a house full of specimen jars and barbaric-looking medical equipment. And in the past, the ending was sometimes more ambiguous in suggesting the consequences, familiar from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, of Rosina’s eventual marriage to an aristocrat she has only ever encountered in successive disguises, and therefore never really known or understood.

Innocent Masuku (Count Almaviva) and Charles Rice (Figaro) in The Barber Of Seville at the London Coliseum. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

The cast this time around is really lovely, though, a fine ensemble, well balanced and superbly integrated. Charles Rice’s excellent Figaro dominates, as he should, handsome of voice and presence, with mocking irony and glee never far from his tone, a man with his eye to the main chance, wordly wise and affectionate. Devin, a soprano Rosina rather than the more usual mezzo, is very much his equal, confounding him with her cunning, and braving Bartolo’s threats with supreme unconcern. The ease in her upper registers and her coloratura are striking, too, particularly in the lesson scene.

Bailey, meanwhile, blusters, rages and can be very funny, though his absurdity also keeps us just the right side of empathy: his aria is superbly done, the words clear and telling in the central patter section, where they can all too frequently blur. Innocent Masuku makes an elegant, bright-toned Almaviva; Alastair Miles’s Basilio sounds good in his calumny aria; and Lesley Garrett, who sang Rosina in this production 25 years ago, now has great fun as Berta, the frustrated housekeeper with the hots for Bartolo. Roderick Cox conducts a taut, energetic account of the score with some exactingly precise playing. It’s a most enjoyable revival – and an excellent tonic for those February blues.

Until 29 February.

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