Opera Review: Barber of Seville @ London Coliseum

Photo by Alastair Muir

Set in 18th century Seville, this opera is Rossini’s masterpiece and a safe bet for the ENO, pulling in the crowds as much today as it did in 1816. A comedy, based on the second of Pierre Beaumarchais’s plays from the Figaro trilogy, it is a prequel to Mozart’s earlier opera, the Marriage of Figaro. Rossini was notoriously prolific and took little more than two weeks to prepare the score.

Andrew Kennedy as Count Almaviva makes appearances in various guises attempting to woo the beautiful Rosina, played by Lucy Crowe. Masquerading as the poor student, Lindoro, he serenades her supported by a band of rather noisy musicians; as a drunken soldier in need of lodging he causes enough chaos to pass her a love letter undetected; he finally succeeds in his efforts as music teacher Don Alonso.

However, the star of this production is Andrew Show as Dr Bartolo, trying his utmost to thwart Almaviva and to himself marry the much younger Rosina. He is lecherous and decrepit; with wit and perfect timing he draws loud laughter from the audience. Soprano Lucy Crowe is also very strong, playing a flirty and mischievous Rosina capable of holding her own against the scheming men. Unfortunately Benedict Nelson, as Figaro, lacks some of the swagger and charisma we would expect from such a key part. Although he grows in the role, we can’t help feeling he has been slightly miscast. Conductor Jaime Martin leaves his previous profession as a flautist to make an energetic operatic debut which passes without mishap.

This is a very conventional and solid production. It contains all the elements of an enjoyable night out and, even if somewhat unchallenging, cannot fail to entertain.

Playing to 17 March. Tickets £19-£95 available from 0871 911 0200 or the ENO website.

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