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Review Of Classic WNO Production from Birmingham Hippodrome
Getting opera back in theatres after over 18 months of lockdowns is an overwhelming sensation. Maybe it's the overly dramatic nature of the singing and orchestral pieces that gives a heightened sense to the emotions.
Opera is back with the Welsh National Opera's Barber of Seville
The Welsh National Opera(WNO) is emerging back on tour with various shows that include the return of one of its favourites, The Barber of Seville.
I caught Rossini's comedic opera at Birmingham Hippodrome before it moves on to Bristol, Southampton, Oxford and Llandudno.
It started off with a focus on the orchestra giving a rendition of the music without any distractions on stage. After such a long time without live full orchestral performances, this time to enjoy the musicians was a welcome entrance into the antics in Seville.
There's a cleverly designed set over three levels that peeps into the various households involved from Figaro's barbershop to Dr Bartolo's home with his ward Rosina. It draws you in. This version is also sung in English to make it more accessible to British audiences.
A farcical tale, it provides the light relief and fun a lot of people have needed after Covid. Revolving around Rosina and her love for a new suitor, she must use all her wits as well as help from canny barber Figaro to avoid the romantic intentions of her overbearing, old guardian Dr Bartolo.
The frivolous nature of this traditional production is a joy and has been directed by Giles Harvergal to fit seamlessly with the famous soundtrack.
This Harvergal production was first performed in the 1980s and has become a firm favourite. Perhaps due to the choreography being a seamless machine that enhances the humour as the cast and chorus grasp and sway in pantomime fashion.
Its forte is Nicholas Lester as Figaro - the epitome of the cheeky Barber - who grabs your attention from his entrance on stage singing those renowned 'Figaro, Figaro, Figaro' words and holds it throughout the 2h 40min performance.
Baritone Lester plays it for laughs with a free-spirited, delightful turn as the lovable matchmaker.
It's fine casting all round, especially Heather Rowe as Rosina and Andrew Shore as villainous Bartolo. While Nico Darmanin as Count Almaviva is the straight bat to Lester's Figaro as a kind of Morecambe and Wise double act.
Darmanin was a BBC Cardiff Singer of the World finalist in 2015 and has the sweet tones of an amorous lover.
Heather Lowe, Nicholas Lester and Keel Watson in Barber of Seville
There's also charismatic Keel Watson, a regular with English National Opera, making an impression as Basilio with that deep deep voice.
It's the return of an old favourite but after so long without live opera, that feels comforting and exciting. This production has stood the test of time because of its ability to be a feel-good classic, and that is music to my ears right now.
Barber of Seville Tour
The Bristol Hippodrome Fri 29 Oct – Sat 30 Oct
Mayflower Theatre, Southampton Fri 5 Nov – Sat 6 Nov
New Theatre Oxford Fri 12 Nov – Sat 13 Nov
Venue Cymru, Llandudno - Thu 2 Dec
Approximately two hours 40 minutes with one interval