United States Rossini, The Barber of Seville: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera / Michele Mariotti (conductor), Transmitted live to Duke of York Cinema, Brighton 22.11.14 (RB)
Fiorello: Yungpeng Wang
Count Almaviva: Lawrence Brownlee
Figaro: Christopher Maltman
Rosina: Isabel Leonard
Dr Bartolo: Maurizio Mauraro
Don Basilio: Paata Burchuladze
Berta: Claudia Waite
An Officer: Dennis Petersen
Ambrogio: Rob Besserer
Director: Bartlett Sher
Set Designer: Michel Yeargan
Costume Designer: Catherine Zuber
Lighting Designer: Christopher Akerlind
Stage Director :Kathleen Smith Belcher
Live in HD Director: Matthew Diamond
Live in HD Host: Deborah Voigt
This revival of Bartlett Sher’s 2006 production of The Barber of Seville remains true to the libretto and places the action in 18th Century Spain. The set was uninspiring consisting of nothing more than a few door frames and orange trees but the costumes were good: Figaro was wearing striped trousers and a red floppy cap, Almaviva was wearing purple leather trousers and a brown waistcoat and Rosina a dazzling evening gown. Sher also decided to use a passerelle – a walkway across the orchestra pit – which allowed the performers to come to the front of the proscenium for some of the big set piece numbers.
Christopher Maltman played the eponymous barber of the title and he portrayed Figaro as a fun loving, quick witted fixer full of zest and high spirits ready to use his wit and cunning in the service of Almaviva. His comic timing was excellent and he used a range of facial expressions to good effect. He has a rich, sonorous baritone voice and he brought enormous warmth, sensitivity and a breadth or humanity to the role. His opening aria Largo al Factotum was a coup de theatre delivered with gusto on top of a cart which was pulled by a group of young female assistants. Much of Maltman’s singing was of an exceptionally high standard but I did not always feel he was entirely comfortable negotiating Rossini’s intricate coloratura and the tricky runs could have been cleaner and crisper on a couple of occasions.
Isabel Leonard and Lawrence Borwnlee were both superb in the roles of Rosina and Almaviva. Leonard sang Rosina’s opening aria Una voce poco fa with exquisite tonal beauty and the coloratura were executed with cut glass perfection. Her Rosina was impetuous, spiky and resourceful and I particularly enjoyed the comic interludes in the second Act when she, Almaviva and Figaro were trying to outwit the hapless Bartolo. Lawrence Brownlee has a light, well focused tenor voice and he demonstrated amazing vocal agility throughout the evening. He threw himself into the role and displayed excellent comic timing in the scenes where Almaviva enters disguised as a soldier and then a music teacher. The final aria was a vocal tour de force that rightly received rapturous applause from the Met audience.
Maruizio Mauraro did a good job with the rapid tongue twisting coloratura in A un dottor della mia sorte. He portrayed Bartolo in a sympathetic and likeable way rather than as the arch villain of the piece: his attempts to imprison and marry off Rosina are seen as much too clumsy and inept to be taken seriously. Paata Burchuladze did a reasonably good job in the role of Don Basilio but his Act 1 aria sounded a little ragged and rough round the edges. Yungpeng Wang was excellent in the role of Fiorello giving us some very well executed singing in the opening scene while Claudia Waite peppered the action with sneezes and did a good job with Berta’s aria.
Michele Mariotti is something of an expert in the bel canto repertoire and he kept the evening’s comic proceedings on track. The overture was light and sparkling and I particularly enjoyed the woodwind’s handling of the more lyrical material. All of the ensemble numbers were tightly controlled and there was a nicely integrated blend of sound throughout. Mariotti did well with the Act 1 finale as some of the cast had crossed the passerelle and were singing behind him – the balance in sound was spot on, the changes in tempo were well handled, the vocal ensembles were crystal clear and the textures remained light and crisp. He allowed it to build into a riotous frothy piece of high camp.
Another successful production from the Met with the plaudits on this occasion going to Mariotti, Leonard and Brownlee.