Deutsche Oper Takes Rossini’s Barber to the Seaside

GermanyGermany Rossini, The Barber of Seville (Il Barbiere di Siviglia)Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin/Daniel Cohen (conductor), Deutsche Oper Berlin, 10.9.2016. (MC)

Photo credit: Matthias Horn
Photo credit: Matthias Horn

Melodrama buffo in 2 acts. Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini based on Pierre Beaumarchais’s French comedy Le Barbier de Séville.

Count Almaviva/Lindoro – Levy Sekgapane
Bartolo – Tiziano Bracci
Rosina – Jana Kurucová
Figaro – Davide Luciano
Basilio – Marko Mimica Fiorillo –
Thomas Lehman Berta – Seyoung Park
Ein Offizier – John Carpenter
Ein Notar – Wendeline Blazejewski

Stage director – Katharina Thalbach
Stage design – Momme Röhrbein
Costume design – Guido Maria Kretschmer
Chorus master – Thomas Richter

Premièred in Rome in 1816 Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) is often claimed as the greatest comic opera ever written. After seeing this 7 year old production of The Barber directed by Katharina Thalbach it doesn’t come across as the greatest opera I’ve seen, but it was certainly an entertaining evening to savour.

First staged at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 2009 Thalbach and stage designer Momme Röhrbein have devised a hectic production which charges along with zest, mixing in numerous elements of the present day and exchanges the Spanish city of Seville in the 18th century for a seafront or riverside town with a sandy beach. The set focuses on a street scene of buildings including a café where a large wooden trailer is parked-up which transforms into a travelling theatre with a substantial stage. The set design includes myriad detail; a moped, green tractor pulling the trailer, red vintage sports car, paperboys, cyclists, a donkey, hippies sleeping in a boat, a monk and a group of nuns, all seen whilst the overture is being played.

Costume designer Guido Maria Kretschmer ensures the main characters are dressed mainly in period costume with many of the secondary players such as waiters, sun bathers and holiday makers out for a stroll etc. all wearing contemporary clothing.

Heading the sparkling young cast Levy Sekgapane playing carefree hero Count Almaviva disguised as Lindoro initially wears a modern blue striped three-piece suit as he arrives in his sports car. Sekgapane’s bright, distinctive voice is not the most attractive that I’ve heard mainly owing to his uneven coloratura but he performs well and is extremely enthusiastic with a fine acting ability. Impressive as the mischievous matchmaker Figaro, baritone Davide Luciano displayed his attractive voice to significant effect, at one point whilst positioned on a precariously swinging ladder. Good looking and youthful, characteristics not normally associated with Figaro, Luciano with clean projection and diction rendered the famous aria Largo al factotum with aplomb.

Lively mezzo-soprano Jana Kurucová as the romantically much in demand Rosina remained consistently glowing all evening. Decked out predominantly in a loud hooped skirted dress with a bold harlequin-like pattern Kurucová was sweetly, clear voiced, skilled with her coloratura and most assured in both her singing and acting. Wearing one of the most unusual hats imaginable Basilio was played with considerable ease by Marko Mimica. The bass-baritone sang his renowned ‘Calunnia’ aria with character and ample savoir-faire. Incidentally Mimica was taking over at short notice for Andrew Harris.

In the comedy role of Bartolo, bass-baritone Tiziano Bracci made significant impact with his aria A un dottor della mia sorte. Of the minor roles the housekeeper Berta taken by Seyoung Park sang her aria with real clarity and plenty of conviction. The whole production benefited greatly from the deft playing of the Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin under Daniel Cohen and for the recitatives Christopher White accompanied on fortepiano.

Michael Cookson

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