Tuesday, April 6th 2011
Gioacchino Rossini: Il Barbiere de Siviglia (The Barber of Seville)
First of all I’d like to say something about the mise-en-scène at the Staatstheater Wiesbaden in general: Lately I found they’ve become too modern, too minimalistic (not in terms of the singing quality, but especially in terms of stage scenery and costumes). I remember their Don Giovanni performance where they sent a real horse on stage and transformed Don Ottavios followers into a bunch of aggressive bikers – not to everyone’s taste, I daresay.Obviously they have noticed this, too: The Barber of Seville is a completely different approach – a funny, witty and extremely entertaining performance full of colourful costumes and a simple but (thanks to lighting) effective stage scenery. Of course one cannot compare the topic of Don Giovanni with the topic of The Barber of Seville. Naturally there is a dark touch in the former and a happier, easygoing touch in the latter. But there must be something in the performance that keeps the people coming in coaches to see it. I went to find out what it is…
Here’s the story: In the 18th century, young Count Almaviva falls in love with the beautiful ward of Doctor Bartolo, Rosina. To see if she will love him for his character and not for his fortune, he disguises himself several times to get near her. His ally is the Barber of Seville, Figaro, who helps him with his (more or less) useful advice. Bartolo, who wants to marry Rosina himself, gets suspicious soon and teams up with Don Basilio, the music teacher, to get rid of the intruder…
The performance starts with Fiorello, Almaviva’s servant, directing several musicians to come onto the stage out of the orchestra pit (by climbing a ladder WITH their instruments – what an entrance!). Erik Biegel, who plays Fiorillo, is extraordinarily funny and convincing, practically dancing about the stage and never keeping still – such a pity he wasn’t with the other artists at the end of the opera, for whatever reason.
When Almaviva, portrayed by Jonas Gudmundsson, enters the stage one might be a little disappointed. His voice is almost drowned by the orchestra and his coloratura sounds slightly constrained, especially in comparison to Figaro, who is the unrivalled hero of this evening, standing out with a thunderous buffo and charming acting. Kiril Manolov is just perfect for this part, with greasy hair and convincing shrewd attitude.
Merit Ostermann plays the intractable Rosina perfectly: she is a mezzo-soprano with an attitude, a clear voice and a talent for acting. Bartolo, who is played by Thomas de Vries, shows off his impressive voice range, also being able to imitate Rosina’s parts, much to the amusement of the audience.
Minor characters like Don Basilio (Bernd Hofmann) and Bartolo’s housekeeper Berta (Stephanie Gooch) stay a little on the sideline, which is a pity, since especially Berta doesn’t fail to impress with a beautiful soprano part in her short aria Il vecchiotto cerca moglie.
The stage is divided by a relocatable partition into two parts, one representing the inside of Bartolo’s house, the other portrays the outside. What else is there? Ah yes, the costumes! I’ve seldom seen such lovely, individual and creative costumes, plus they are actually all corresponding to each other, thus forming an ensemble, a team (see also the trailer). Each character has their colour theme, all representing a certain mood, as for example the golden suit Almaviva wears is representing his wealth.
I was so pleased by the charisma of the artists, one could practically see their glee – even the cembalist (who had not much to do except during the recitatives) was laughing so hard, it simply was sheer joy to watch and listen. The roaring applause at the end showed that opera, when staged like this, can be fun indeed. I can only recommend that you go and get yourself a ticket (one month in advance!), also for kids this is a ball! The perfect introduction to opera and classical music. Rossini’s music is easy, catchy and brilliant; the performance of the ensemble and outstanding success.