Glyndebourne, Il Barbieri di Siviglia – Opera review – Express, UK.

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The plot, like that of Wagner's Die Meistersinger with which this opera shared the opening weekend at Glyndebourne this year, centres on a lecherous old man's attempts to marry the reluctant young heroine, who is in love with someone else. While Wagner impresses with the imperious magnificance of the music, however, Rossini relies on the inventive effervescence of his music and sheer joy of the ridiculous story line.

Usually in any comic opera, one feels lucky to have one singer with true comic timing. In this production there are four, in all the main roles. First, there is Figaro, beautifully sung and acted with impressive energy by the German baritone Björn Bürger.

Figaro is the irrepressible barber who comes up with a succession of cunning schemes to ensure that the heroine, Rosina, keeps out of the clutches of her guardian Dr Bartolo and instead marries the man of her choice, Count Almaviva.

Danielle de Niese is delicious as Rosina, combining a voice that can effortlessly cope with all the twiddly bits Rossini throws at the part, while also showing the skills of a fine comic actress.

The role of the wicked Dr Bartolo is played by Italian baritone Alessandro Corbelli who for many years has been everyone's first choice as a comic operatic villain. His gestures, his pauses and his other scene-stealing tricks bring as much to the production as his resonant deep voice.

In the role of Almaviva, the Australian Taylor Stayton may not have quite the comic magnificence of the other three, but his tenor voice more than makes up for it and his double-act with Bürger is certainly one of the best I have ever seen on an opera stage.

Add great playing from the London Philharmonic Orchestra and a brisk, energetic pace maintained by conductor Enrique Mazzola and it adds up to a production of pure delight.

I came away with only one slight regret (which is why I have given it four stars rather than five). Rossini's Barber of Seville is always performed with one of two possible final scenes. One of them, right at tne end, features a real show-stopper in the tenor aria "Cessa di più resistere", which is one of the longest and most demanding in the repertoire.

Rosini had a habit of throwing the most impossibly fast and tonsil-tangling arias at his singers, who is why most productions opt for the alternative version, dropping this particular challenge. On hearing Taylor Stayton's singing at the start of the opera, however, I thought that he was one of the rare tenors who could manage it. Sadly, it was not to be.

The Glyndebourne experience was, as always, magnificent, but when I got home, I could not help listening to a reciording of the great Juan Diego Flores singing "Cessa di più resistere", just to complete the Rossini experience.

 

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