Il Barbiere Di Siviglia is my personal favourite Rossini, charming and very funny with sparkling music. This 1999 La Scala production is not my first choice, that's between the Ponnelle film, the 1989 Met production and the 2005 Madrid performance, however it is still very well done and enjoyable. The traditional costumes and sets do look lovely especially in Dunque Io Son, which was the epitome of wit and charm, and the video directing was focused and clean on the whole. The musical values were terrific. The orchestral playing was stylish and bursting with energy, and while I personally would have done Un Dottor Della Mia Sorte in particular a tad slower for the pattering Riccardo Chailly does show an understanding and respect for Rossini's style as was proved in the outstanding Guglielmo Tell recording he did with Milnes, Pavarotti, Freni and Ghiaurov(I think it was late 70s). The staging is never dull, with something interesting always to look at.
The performances are generally terrific, with my favourite being Juan Diego Florez as Almaviva, the best in the role perhaps since Luigi Alva. He is dashing and funny, but the revelation was the voice which was effortless in the high registers and tackling the many florid passages with ease. Sonia Ganassi is a charming Rossini, showing just the right colouratura technique and agility for Una Voca Poca Fa and Dunque Io Son. She is not one of my favourite Rosinas(I prefer Peters, Sills, Bartoli and DiDonato in the role) but she is impressive still. Gurgio Surjan surprised me, not because I don't like him, but because there have been times where I liked him and others not so much. Last time I saw him was in 1992's La Donna Del Lago, I was very mixed on the overall production and found Surjan one of the weaker parts of it, coming across as wobbly and disengaged. Here though, this is the best I've seen him, with the voice resonant and rich even with signs of a wobble and La Calunnia in particular darkly funny and animated.
Roberto Frontali is a good Figaro, he is dapper and funny with a presence on stage that is always confident. His voice is strong with a characterful Largo Al Factotum, though there are parts such as in All' Idea Di Quel Metallo where it could have done with more finesse and agility. Alfonso Antoniozzi was for me the least effective of the principals as Bartolo. That is not to say he is bad, he isn't, quite often he is grotesque and amusing if never quite on the same level as Enzo Dara or Renato Capecchi. His voice is decent, with good style, but sounds underpowered around the lower middle and the fast tempo of Un Dottor Della Mia Sorte doesn't really allow for him to enunciate as clearly as he could have done. Patane's speed on the 1988/9 recording with Nucci, Bartoli and Matteuzzi is a more comfortable speed for that aria in my opinion.
All in all, a very enjoyable Barbiere, energetic and well sung generally. 8.5/10 Bethany Cox
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