Reviewed by Gina Lilley
The Glyndebourne Tour wishes to bring opera to many who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go. Milton Keynes Theatre has been the venue for this week and last night was Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Barber of Seville).
I hadn’t seen this particular opera before and didn’t realise quite what a treat we were in for!
Written by Rossini and first performed in Rome in 1816, it is described as an “Opera Buffa”. This means that it is a comic or humorous opera as opposed to a tragedy.
Directed by Annabel Arden and with Sinead O’Neill as the Revival Director, what happens before you is a feast.
The overture which feels like listening to a piece of music at a classical concert in itself, is instantly recognisable to many an ear, with strains of assorted melodies that float around on television and radio. Figaro is the town barber, jack of all trades and busybody and the titles namesake. He is played magnificently by Tobias Greenhalgh.
This very engaging story, is of course, about love. Count Almaviva wishes to ask Rosina to marry him but is worried that she may love him for his wealth and status. Figaro helps Almaviva devise a plan to disguise himself to get into the house where Rosina lives.
The plot is further confused by Bartolo, who is Rosina’s Ward. Bartolo has also decided that he will marry Rosina.
Rosina is indeed in love with the Count, although she knows him as Lindoro, an impoverished student and so the story unfolds, twisting and turning through Act 1. Laura Verrecchia has the most enormous voice and the ability to encompass many notes in one breath, quite wonderful to watch.
Within Bartolo’s house are the most engaging set of 3 servants who bring such a level of comedy to the opera that you really don’t need to be able to speak Italian to understand what was happening. Fantastic facial expressions whilst these 3 pottered about the stage moving furniture, assisting the housekeeper and sleeping on bookshelves! Bravo Jofre Caraben van der Meer, Steve Johnstone and Maxime Nourissat!
Whilst in the house the housekeeper Berta played with true feeling by Janis Kelly also entertained us eventually showing her true feelings on being a spinster alongside a slightly surprised servant.
Bartolo was played comically by Marco Filippo Romano and he, Figaro and the Count has some of the most intricate words to sing at speed that was fabulous to listen to and, of course, their diction was incredible – Italian or not!
The score is fast and impetuous, and I should think is a work out for the strings section but so easy on the ear, you leave with the music buzzing around in your head. Conducted by Ben Gernon with Richard Milone as the tour orchestra leader, they were formidable!
The set was so unusual and modern with great use of a wallpaper style wrap of flats around the stage with beautifully lit sections of it adding colour where needed. Imposing and impressive cupboards and bookshelves in white added a stark contrast and became integral to the playing out of the opera. This was all created by Joanna Parker and the lighting by James Farncombe and David Manion. It completed the feast this opera shared with us.
If you have never seen an opera then this is an excellent place to start – it is funny, easy to follow and helped by super titles (above the stage) so you can follow any twists and turns in the plot with ease. Guaranteed to raise a smile at the very least and often laughing out loud.
Glyndebourne Tour 2017 – thank you! Please come back soon.
Tickets cost from £20.40 to £84.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Glyndebourne’s Il Barbiere Di Siviglia is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 22-25 November 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes or call the box office on 0844 8717652.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK9 3NZ