Monday 16 January 2006

The Barber of Seville

We went to see the new production of Rossini's The Barber of Seville at the Royal Opera House on Saturday. A review will appear shortly, but it set me thinking of past productions of the opera that I've seen (not many in fact). The new ROH production is not naturalistic, but very stylised, which is a first for me; all previous productions I've seen have been securely in the 18th century.

I first saw the opera at the Edinburgh Festival in 1976 in a production from Germany, Cologne opera I think (I really must dig out my old programmes!). It must have been by Michael Hampe because many years later when the Royal Opera acquired a 'new' production, it was virtually the same as this German one. I also saw the old ENO production at the Coliseum when I was down in London on a course in the early 1980's. This production was notable for being from their Sadlers Wells days and the sets were not really big enough for the Coliseum stage. But the performance marked the debut of Anne Marie Owens in the role of Rosina and she was certainly not a Rosina to mess with! I think this was the performance that had John Brecknock in the role of Almaviva; unfortunately he was not really capable of singing the fioriture in Almaviva's first aria.

I caught up with the current ENO production only relatively recently and rather enjoyed it, but Barber is not an opera I feel the need to see regularly. Somehow it always overstays its welcome; for my taste the opera is just a little bit too long for the comedy.

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