This is a Barber for traditionalists, solid old-fashioned performances, traditional costumes and two traditional sets on a tiny Stuttgart stage. There is the exterior of Don Bartolo's house for scene I and his living room for the rest of the opera. It comes as a bit of a shock to me after some of the lively recent productions I have seen with Moorish costumes, elaborate sets and a revolving stage.
To be honest, the only reason I watched this production is that it is the one favoured by my teacher in my Italian Through Opera course. Yes, we have such things even in Birmingham. The main interest to me is in seeing the 22 year-old Cecilia Bartoli, at the very outset of her career, singing Rosina. As expected, this is a very assured performance vocally and she is about the right age for the part but maybe it lacks some of the nuance of her more mature roles.
There are not many surprises in this production although I did like the suggestion that the elderly maid Berta is secretly in love with Don Bartolo. She strokes his wig wistfully during her aria. One of the things that I learned on my course is that this aria is known as an aria del sorbetto because it is irrelevant to the plot and members of the audience can go and get an ice cream during its performance. I felt like going for an ice cream too but in fairness I ought to add that, although this production did nothing for my jaded palate, most of my classmates, who had never seen Il Barbiere before, thought that it was wonderful.
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