Friday, September 16, 2022




THE BAR u The Barber of Seville.  



The Barber of Seville. 

Composer Giochino Rossini. Librettist Cesare Sterbini. Directed by Priscilla Jackman. Set design by Michael Scott-Mitchell. Costumes by Sabina Myers.Lighting designer Morgan Moroney. Conductor Luke Spicer. Orchestra Reduction Simon Bruckard. Children’s Chorus Master Kate Joy Stuart. Opera Australia. Canberra Theatre. Canberra Theatre Centre. September 15-17 2022. Bookings: 62425711.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


Opera Australia's scintillating production of Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville pops up like  an exploding cork from a sparkling bottle of the finest Italian Prosecco. Director Priscilla Jackman’s fun-filled romp is just the ticket for Opera Australia’s touring production. Rossini’s popular romp about Count Almaviva’s love-struck pursuit of the beautiful Rosina is given a fresh-faced makeover by Jackman, designer Michael Scott-Mitchell and costume designer Sabina Myers. The entire production absolutely glitters with colour and visual effervescence, highlighted by  Morgan Moroney’s lighting design. The effluence of pink in the costuming, wigs and handlebar moustaches lend the whole production a candy stick sweetness that perfectly attunes with the frothiness and gaiety of Rossini’s composition. 

Rossini and librettist Cesare Sterbini have drawn heavily on the improvisational Commedia dell’arte. The stock characters of Commedia are immediately identifiable in The Barber of Seville. The lovers, Almaviva and Rosina, are being thwarted in their attempts to be together by Pantalone, Rosina’s ward and propspective husband Don Bartolo (Michael Lampard). Almaviva enlists the aid of Arlecchino , the barber Figaro (Haotian Qui) who devises ways to confound Bartolo and his Capitano, music teacher Don Basilio (Shane Lawrence). Comedia’s Brighella  and Arlecchino’s accomplice  is represented in the opera by Berta (Jennifer Black). Jackman employs the hilarious techniques of Commedia to give her production the flair and frolic of Rossini’s side-splitting entertainment.  There are sight gags by the score, slapstick to tickle the funnybone, disguises to mock and confound, and routines to bewilder and trick the unsuspecting Bartolo. Guile wins the day, pomposity is fooled and love triumphs as it should.  All results in an evening of uproarious hilarity and mirth. 

To make the touring even more accessible to the regions, Jackman and Scott-Mitchell have set the opera near the Yarra Valley winemaking town of Seville. Scott-Mitchell’s shopfront is readily identifiable as the wrought iron establishment of the 19th century country town. It is where the townsfolk may enjoy “Sevillized Libations”.

The highly physical and energetic production is performed in Italian with English surtitles. Careful attention is given to the singers, so that Jackman’s blocking complements conductor Luke Spicer’s lively orchestral interpretation. The result is a splendid harmony of stage business and musical rendition of Rossini’s uplifting composition. A look at the touring schedule of Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and the ACT is proof enough of the exhausting schedule and demands on the voices of Opera Australia’s fine singers. It is not surprising therefore that Jackman has doubled up her cast and the singers mentioned here are the performers at the Canberra season. Doubling up alleviates the weightier demand on the principals and each town provides the delightful Children’s Chorus  under the tutelage of Kate Joy Stuart and all dressed in their urchin garb and caps with bright pink moustaches. This is an experience they will never forget!

Rossini’s music is immediately identifiable and the cheeky, cocky, posturing rendition of Figaro. Figaro. Figaro sung with aplomb by baritone Qi sets the mood for an evening of fun and laughter. The delight is infectious. The singers revel in Jackman’s directorial vision and Spicer and his touring size orchestra  lend a spirited accompaniment to the show.

First staged in 1816, The Barber of Seville remains a popular favourite in the operatic repertoire. Rossini’s composition bristles with the spontaneity of a richly coloured improvisation and director Jackman, conductor Spicer and the company make the most of Rossini’s youthful playfulness. Opera Australia’s 2022 tour of The Barber of Seville concludes on a high note with the Canberra season and a production that could simply keep on touring and delighting audiences across the land.