My standard version of Il barbiere is the 1958 Callas-Gobbi production for Walter Legge, so I was anxious to see this film with a young Tito playing the factotum della città.
Almaviva is sung by Ferruccio Tagliavini, who is just a name in the historic recordings section to me. According to James Anderson and his dictionary, he is "the leading Italian tenore di grazia of the immediate postwar period". He certainly has an attractive sound. But his rendition of "Ecco ridente" sounds a little idiosyncratic, shall we say, to me, although I can't quite describe how.
Absolutely none of the sound in this film was recorded live, not even the recitativo. I assume that that was standard procedure for Italian opera films of this period. There is no attempt to add incidental sound effects to match the mise en scène. Accurate lip-synching is also not a priority. The emphasis is on beautiful singing, and of course that's fine with me.
The viewer waits anxiously for Gobbi's entrance. Figaro first appears as a giant silhouette against a wall. Gobbi swings his guitar around as though he's never encountered one before. He is in great voice however. Gobbi manages to sing (on the soundtrack) and have a drink from the fontana in the piazza at one and the same time! He handles his "Figaro, Figaro, Figaro ..." in a wacky way that reminded me of Lawrence Tibbett. Very different from his 1958 approach.
Nelly Corradi sings Rosina, and she is lovely, especially in profile. She begins "Una voce poco fa" gazing into a mirror whilst seated at her dressing table. Rosina keeps a pet cockatoo! A silent one.
Don Basilio's "La calunnia" is quite funny. The part is sung by Italo Tajo, "an outstanding singing-actor, particularly in comedy" (Anderson again).
The film is very enjoyable generally with good finales at the end of the first two acts. (They are actually called tempi, not atti.)
The director, Mario Costa, does not intrude very often. This film is no "Tales of Hoffmann". Costa does take the opportunity though to move the camera around a bit during the storm scene in Act III (il terzo tempo).
There was a big disappointment lying in wait for me at the end of the film however. Not surprisingly, the opera ends with my personal favourite, "Di sì felice innesto", as always. Sort of.
They sing as far as the first "Si vegga in voi regnar". But the duet and solos for Rosina and Almaviva are gone! And the final tutti is missing. It leaves you feeling as though you've just been whacked on the head with Figaro's guitar.
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