BWW Review: Drawing On The Comedy Of 1920's Silent Films THE BARBER OF SEVILLE Is A Lighthearted Opera Filled With Familiar Music
Thursday 4th February 2016, 7:30pm, Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera HouseOpera Australia's THE BARBER OF SEVILLE is presented with the wonderful slapstick physical humor of the early movies as the comic tale unfolds. Gioachino Rossini's popular opera, filled with familiar music is presented with the requisite frenzy and fun in this revival of Elijah Moshinsky's (Director) presentation. First presented by Opera Australia in 1995, Revival director Hugh Halliday has kept Moshinsky's original vision fresh with a new energetic cast that captures not only the textured music but the physicality of the storytelling. Set designer Michael Yeargan's set is clever and detailed. The row of terrace houses, in miniature, sets the absurd tone for the work as Fiorello (Samuel Dundas) and Lindoro/Count Almaviva (Kenneth Tarver) serenade outside Rosina's (Anna Dowsley) window. Yeargan's two-story dolls-house cutaway is filled with wonderful detail from the oversized Morris wallpaper to the little curios on the piano and the sterile doctor's surgery and allows for vertical variety along with multiple scenes to play out at once. Dona Granata's costume design is a balance between the crisp accuracy of the 1920's clothing and the exaggerated makeup turning the 'normal' into caricatures as seen in silent movies where visual cues had to convey a character's absurdity in place of dialogue. The farcical plot of courtship, seedy older men with designs on young wealthy women and deception works well with Mashinsky's choice to draw on Silent film stylings. The exaggerated movements, repeated gags and bizarre breaking into chorus line dancing highlights the ridiculousness of what is playing out as Count Almaviva, with the help of the barber Figaro, seeks to woo the young Rosina who is being held captive by her guardian, the much older Doctor Bartolo. Anna Dowsley is delightful as Doctor Bartolo's young ward, Rosina. She captures the youth, playfulness and scheming of the young woman, presenting a nuanced physical performance and beautiful clear, strong vocals. She accentuates every phrase with little movements that convey Rosina's youth and the carefree era in which Moshinsky has set the work and fits with the 'silent comic movie' styling. It is also refreshing to see an opera casting a performer that matches the image of the character with Dowsley's youthful frame in keeping with the images of lithe young flappers. The Barber, Figaro is presented with equal clarity and power by Paolo Bordogna. He captures the confidence and cunning of the planner and schemer. Bordonga presents the famous Largo al factotum with bold precision and playfulness as he sets Figaro's position as the trusted employee that can put his hand to a multitude of jobs. Whilst Kenneth Tarver's Count Almaviva and Warwick Fyfe's Doctor Bartolo capture the comic physicality of the roles, Andrea Molino's orchestra overpowers their fast paced patter with lyrics being lost. Special mention goes to Jane Ede and Samuel Dundas' portrayals as Doctor Bartolo's nurse Berta and servant Ambrogio, respectively. Dundas presents the silent, possibly drugged or drunk servant with hilarious physicality as he quietly and dispassionately opens doors and lurks in shadows. Ede captures the overworked alcoholic nurse/housekeeper with a dry humor as she listens out for gossip, tends to the patients and helps herself to the Doctor's Gin. Whilst the audience focus is being pulled to the leading characters, it is very worthwhile to keep an eye out for Berta, Ambrogio and Doctor Bartolo's patients' antics that continue in other rooms. THE BARBER OF SEVILLE is a lovely, lighthearted production filled with familiar melodies and a simple storyline, making this a good choice for those wanting to venture into their first experience of opera. The lively rendering and fabulous music also makes this an easy choice for those familiar with the work as a chance to be absorbed in Rossini's textured melodies and escape with a story that eludes the usual murder and tragedy that traditionally occupies operas.
THE BARBER OF SEVILLE
Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
2016 Summer Season:
January 28, 30,
February 4, 6, 10, 13 (matinee), 17, 20, 26,
March 5 (matinee), 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 22