On the evening of November 3rd, 2023, opera enthusiasts gathered at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre to witness a remarkable production of Rossini’s ‘The Barber of Seville.’ This comedic masterpiece, directed by Sir Thomas Allen, unfolded in English, featuring Amanda Holden’s translation, and was a testament to the enduring charm of this operatic classic.
The narrative centred around Figaro, a character known for his wit and resourcefulness, navigating a world filled with young love and the eccentricities of the elderly. Count Almaviva, smitten by the enchanting Rosina, sought Figaro’s assistance in winning her heart. However, the journey was fraught with challenges, as Rosina’s guardian, Doctor Bartolo, harboured plans of marrying her himself, keeping her under lock and key.
This revival, brought to life at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, was a visual spectacle, with Simon Higlett’s enchanting set designs painted in vivid Spanish colours. The performance was sung entirely in English, offering a fresh perspective on Rossini’s larger-than-life characters and their hilarious antics.
The music, a hallmark of Rossini’s compositions, was brought to life by the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, under the baton of conductor Stuart Stratford. The Chorus of The Barber of Seville contributed to the grandeur of the production, and the talented ensemble of performers included Samuel Dale Johnson (Figaro), Anthony Gregory (Count Almaviva), Simone McIntosh (Rosina), David Stout (Doctor Bartolo), Inna Husieva (Berta), John Molloy (Don Basilio), and Ross Cumming (Fiorello/ An Officer).
The night at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre commenced with the overture, setting the stage for the delightful evening that followed. The curtain rose to unveil a vibrant street scene outside Doctor Bartolo’s house, characterized by post-impressionist colours and early-1900s details, setting the tone for a visually stimulating experience. The production exhibited a seamless flow of action, masterful orchestral performances, and meticulous attention to visual details, all brilliantly illuminated by Mark Jonathan’s exquisite lighting design.
Rossini’s character Almaviva, brought to life by English tenor Anthony Gregory, was a charismatic young lover, and his versatile portrayal added a layer of depth to the character, especially during his guise as a bogus drunken soldier. Australian baritone Samuel Dale Johnson delivered a persuasive and agile Figaro, meeting the demands of Rossini’s intricate vocal passages, particularly in the iconic ‘Largo al factotum.’ Doctor Bartolo, a character gifted to bass-baritones, was brilliantly portrayed by English baritone David Stout, who combined vocal prowess with dramatic finesse. Irish bass John Molloy’s portrayal of Don Basilio exuded cunning and deviousness, earning him praise. Scottish baritone Ross Cumming, an emerging artist with Scottish Opera, delivered commendable performances in the roles of Fiorello and the Officer.
The role of Rosina, one known for its vocal challenges over the years, was expertly undertaken by Swiss-Canadian mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh. Her performance in the mezzo-soprano register showcased exquisite coloratura and flawless execution of the messa di voce technique. Her renditions of ‘Una voce poco fa’ in Act I, Scene 2, and the Act II faux singing lesson were hailed as perfection. Ukrainian soprano Inna Husieva, another emerging artist with Scottish Opera, shone in her role as Berta, Bartolo’s long-suffering housekeeper, particularly during her Act II aria lamenting the chaos in the Bartolo household.
The production, directed by Sir Thomas Allen, unfolded in English, offering a fresh perspective on this timeless classic. With a stellar cast and impeccable musical and visual elements, this production provided an evening of laughter and joy that was not to be missed. The English translation added a layer of humour, making it a treat for the audience. For those seeking a night filled with laughter and music, this performance came highly recommended.
Reviewer: Nazaret Ranea
Reviewed: 3rd November 2023
North West End UK Rating: