OPERA REVIEW: The Barber of Seville @English National Opera

October 6, 2017

The Barber of Seville

English National Opera

London Coliseum


Disguises, deception, bribery . . . true love will always find a way.

Two centuries after its premiere and thirty years after its first outing in 1987, Jonathan Miller’s Tiepolo-inspired staging of this comic masterpiece brilliantly intercuts the traditions of the Italian commedia dell’arte and the Whitehall farce to create a charming evening of musical and comedy enjoyment.

Rossini’s prequel to The Marriage of Figaro remains as tuneful, ironic and funny as ever. Set in an elegant comic-opera vision of 18th-century Seville, this thirteenth revival with returning (2015) director Peter Relton taking experienced control of this production has the same warm comfortable seriousness as its last outing, and serves up the laughs. With costumes from designer Tanya McCallin exactly as Rossini would have envisioned, it looks delightful; all faded glamour, evocative costumes and fancy rococo tables. I loved watching it again as much as I enjoyed listening to it.

Read the synopsis here:

It’s laugh out loud funny, the comic acting is first class and Alan Opie (who was the original Figaro three decades ago) is a delight with his pompous entitled Dr Bartolo, his timing and flourishes teasing laughter from the audience. Sarah Tynan in her debut as Rosia gave one of those stunning performances showing off her pure soprano with an effortless grace that was charming, gliding around and polished purity in her high notes she was amusing and appealing.  They were a well matched and funny matching when together.

Morgan Pearse’s returning as Figaro was electric from the off, he owned the role, the stage and us, his voice is lyrical and resonant and he managed the often tricky libretto with skill. He’s clean cut rather than as sly and crafty but his Figaro is convincing, charming and works, his stage presence is magnificent.   His was the stand out performance of this production.

Yvonne Howard singing of the housekeeper Bertha was superb and her voice is expansive and engaging. A foxy bemused Basilio from Alastair Miles was resonant and impressed although melted away in the ensemble pieces.  Eleazar Rodriguez, returning yet again to this role he obviously enjoys  was great fun and the audience seemed pleased with his portrayal of the Count, he kept up to speed with the tightly choreographed comedy while bringing his own lighter touch to the singing too, he’s a very funny performer and seemed to delight in the endless costumes changes, silly voices and general daftness of the plot. You could feel the twinkle in his eye and the amusement in his voice and that carried out to the audience.

Hilary Griffiths’ debut conducting the orchestra of the ENO was delightful, tight and bouncy in just the right fizzing way which underpinned the frothy nonsense of the plot, he conducted with  vigour and zeal which outshone the passion on the stage. The energy brought from the pit last night was fresh and invigorating and Griffiths wowed us with the orchestra in full swell.  The comedy is supported by the witty translation, the surtitles make sure we got all the jokes, and the diction very mostly clear, although down in the stalls there was some loss of clarity. There were some delightful rhymes and pithy insults, my companion giggled her way throughout the night.

This was a fun and enjoyable night out at the ENO, full of laughter and delightful performances. I’d recommend this production for a first timer or for someone with a more traditional taste in opera as it will leave you humming and smiling all the way home.

Miller slowly joined the cast on stage last night and the house roared their approval of this revival.

Performances until October 30


London Coliseum

For more info or to book tickets see the ENO website here.

Running time: 3hr