Libretto by Cesare Sterbini
Music by Gioachino Rossini
Directed by Priscilla Jackman
Canberra Theatre to 17 September
Reviewed by Len Power 15 September 2022
As the overture commenced for Rossini’s ‘The Barber of Seville’, it was a bit of a shock to become aware of the cast wearing all kinds of big moustaches and standing motionless on the dimly lit set. They were staring at us with what seemed to be sinister intent.
It was all a joke, of course, and it signalled that disguises were going to be a major part of the story. Rossini’s opera is a delightful romantic and farcical romp. Count Almaviva, in love with Rosina, enlists the help of the roguish barber, Figaro, to win her hand in marriage. A dizzying plot ensues with Almaviva donning not very convincing disguises to outwit Rosina’s guardian, Dr Bartolo, who plans to marry Rosina himself to get his hands on her fortune.
Set in Victoria’s wine country (where there really is a town called Seville), the set for Opera Australia’s production has been cleverly designed by Michael Scott-Mitchell to evoke one of those old shops with original fittings you can still find in country towns around the country. The use of moustaches throughout the show on costumes, set and props reminds us that we are just here to have a good time. Even the doctors have moustaches painted on their face masks.
The director, Priscilla Jackman, keeps the fun moving at a fast pace. Every moment and set change has been tightly choreographed, making it a pleasure to watch as well as listen to.
This touring production has alternating cast members. At the opening night performance every character was beautifully played by this well-directed ensemble and their singing was excellent. Esther Song sang and acted a superb Rosina and there were great comic characterizations and singing from Nicholas Jones as Count Almaviva, Haotian Qi as Figaro, Andrew Moran as Dr Bartolo, Shane Lowrencev as Don Basilio, David King as Fiorello, Jennifer Black as Berta and the rest of the cast. A children’s chorus of locals sang well and confidently joined in the quirky spirit of the production.
The conductor, Luke Spicer, ensured that both singers and orchestra produced a fine sound for this beautiful score.
This production of ‘The Barber of Seville’ was a delight from start to finish. It’s hilariously wacky, beautifully sung and acted and a sumptuous feast for the eyes as well.
Photo by Jeff Busby
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.