Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

The Barber of Seville

The Welsh National Opera , Wales Millennium Centre , September 25, 2011
The Barber of Seville by The Welsh National Opera These late eighteenth century strolling players must have felt it an enormous bit of luck that they were able to set up their portable stage on the twenty-first century stage of the magnificent Donald Gordon theatre, the pride of the Millennium Centre. A cleverly designed wooden structure that the players had almost completely reconstructed as we entered the theatre with a design enhanced by the sumptuous, atmospheric painted cloths by designer Russell Craig.

They had been here a couple of years before and they were given a spirited welcome back by the villagers eager to enjoy the performance. As each exotic character emerged on to the stage it was clear they had lost none of the fun and excellence that had previously been brought to the work. The WNO is internationally highly regarded for its skill, its artistry and it wonderful singing. And here it was set out for our delectation.

Rossini’s delightful overture under the extremely able baton of Alexander Polianichko, making a welcome return to the WNO, seduces us into a readiness for the hilarity and romance about to burst out before us. He conducts with enormous dexterity with a clear understanding of the music, blending it perfectly with the voices on the stage.

This is unmistakably Opera Buffa and we’re in for a good time. The story unfolds before us with a perfect ease, an ease that takes great skill and talent to perfect and Giles Havergal’s direction has ensured everything in this production is pretty near perfect and many moments are sublime.

Count Almaviva is a charming young man who you would think would have no trouble getting his girl but the way he sets to go about it here provides us with the great farce that is at the core of the opera. Farce is full of complications; they are there right from the start.
In excellent voice tenor Alexander Kennedy, 2005 winner of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Rosenblatt recital prize, captures the helpless charm of the eager young lover completely. He makes his first appearance under his beloved Rosina’s window as the poor student. He wants her to love him for himself not his money, silly boy! His attempt to get the town band to charm her ends in miserable failure but help is at hand as we hear from behind the curtains of his shop, his friend Figaro, the barber of Seville. He
introduces himself to us all with his famous aria. A strong and completely captivating baritone of Jacques Imbrailo regarded as one of the hottest young baritones on the block. He also has a great twinkle in his eye and a great sense of enjoyment that he readily shares with the audience.

Between them they go through a lot of delicious trouble to ensure he wins his prize. And what a prize, Christine Rice’s Rosina posses a commanding delight both for the eye and the ear. A mezzo-soprano on top of her form with an excellent touch of coloratura.

It’s no wonder that her ‘protector’ the dastardly Dr Bartolo wants to marry her himself and has in fact laid on a scheme for the wedding to take place. Eric Roberts gives us a nicely drawn picture of this awful fellow, like all the cast keeping his tongue in his cheek as the chase goes on. He has an impressive voice but it suffers from a little loss of volume and clarity in some of the ensemble singing.

He also has a side-kick Basilio, again a well pitched performance from Clive Bayley. There’s a letter buzzing about, Servant girl Berta rushes around going nowhere and former Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama graduate Megan Llewellyn Dorke sings equally as well as she smiles and is a great favourite with the audience. There is strong support from Paul Gyton, Jack O’Kelly and Howard Kirk. Boy gets girl and all the villagers gather behind our heroes and the villains and there is a great sing-off underpinned mostly by the male members of the great WNO chorus.

Reviewed by: Michael Kellingan

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