Great singing, conducting and music, sound and staging lacking
I am a huge fan of opera and always have been. I love Il Barbiere Di Siviglia, and consider it my personal favourite of Rossini's operas for its fun characters, story and comic coincidences and the brilliant music.
I did enjoy this 1992 production, but I couldn't help being disappointed too. I do prefer the Jean Pierre Ponelle film, and the productions with Prey/Wunderlich/Koth, Quillico/Bartoli/Feller/Lloyd, Florez/ Bayo/ Spagnoli/ Pratico/Raimondi, and Nucci/Battle/Blake/Dara, and recordings-wise the ones with Milnes/Gedda/Sills/Capecchi/Raimondi, and Nucci/Bartoli/Matteuzzi.
My main problems with this production were the sound quality and some of the staging. The sound is uneven throughout, often making the orchestra louder than the singing, likewise with also the movements and footsteps on stage. In regards to the staging, Dunque Io Son, Largo Al Factotum and La Calunnia were fine.
Less successful were A Un Dottor Della Mia Sorte, which was saved by Capecchi's singing, acting and style, but it also has some of the worst cases of uneven sound and also Larmare at her most stolid. The clumsiest of the staging for me were Una Voce Poca Fa, which was beautifully sung but I was distracted by the sideshow that were the ladies in waiting, I would have preferred it if Rosina was alone in this scene, and particularly the first act finale(one of the highlights of the opera normally) which was too cluttered and noisy.
Complaints aside, I did actually enjoy this Barbiere Di Siviglia. The sets and costumes while not exactly in the traditional sense are very nice, and the video directing is very good. The story is still entertaining, with none of the comic coincidences falling flat. The orchestra do play with panache and the conducting does show a conductor, Alberto Zedda, who is very experienced in Rossini, which comes through volumes.
The performances are great. My favourite is Renato Capecchi's Bartolo, he is amusing yet very grotesque and he acts and sings wonderfully, with the best pattering of the cast. Jennifer Larmore apart from one or two scenes where the director makes her just stand there, I personally think she could have been a little more emotive in A Un Dottor Della Mia Sorte, but her Una Voce Poca Fa and Dunque Io Son perfectly showing off her beautiful, creamy yet quite dark mezzo voice and infectious personality are wonderful.
David Malis is good as the dapper Figaro, his Largo Al Factotum is nice and entertaining and he acts and sings well in general. His singing in the duet Dunque Io Son particularly on the runs though is rather choppy and sound as though he is pushing a bit. Simone Alaimo is fine as Basilio, La Calunnia is one of the better sung and staged renditions of the productions, while Richard Croft is a very athletic and dashing Alvaviva shining especially in All'Idea Quel Metallo.
Overall, the singing, conducting, costume and set design and music are great, but the sound quality and some of the staging bring it down. I enjoyed it, but wanted to love it more. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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