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Theatre review: The Barber of Seville at the London Coliseum

PUBLISHED: 16:13 13 March 2013

The Barber of Seville performed by the English National Opera
. Picture: Alastair Muir

The Barber of Seville performed by the English National Opera . Picture: Alastair Muir

©ALASTAIR MUIR CONTACT: alastair@alastairmuir.com

Still plenty of life left in ENO’s production of The Barber of Seville after 25 years, writes David Ladds

This is the eleventh revival of Jonathan Miller’s production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. It’s easy to see why it remains in the ENO’s repertoire: it’s very well done, genuinely funny and a real crowd-pleaser.

The story is simple enough: Count Almaviva enlists the help of Figaro, the barber, to woo Rosina, the ward of the cantankerous Dr Bartolo. But Bartolo also has designs on Rosina and keeps her locked in the house. Cue lots of scheming, deception and disguises as our motley crew try to outwit each other and win Rosina’s affections.

This production blends plenty of old and new talent. Andrew Shore, who could surely play the role of Dr Bartolo in his sleep, lines up alongside Benedict Nelson, playing Figaro for the first time. He may not go down as a classic Figaro but he performs well and delivers his signature Largo al factotum aria with aplomb.

Highlight of the evening was the set-piece at the start of Act Two between Lucy Crowe’s Rosina, Dr Bartolo and Count Almaviva, sung by Andrew Kennedy, who infiltrates the house disguised as Rosina’s singing teacher. It is a masterpiece both in terms of Andrew Shore’s comic timing and Lucy Crowe’s singing, bringing the strongest applause of the night from the audience. Although the cast all have their moments, Crowe is certainly someone to keep an eye on in the future.

Conductor Jaime Martin, making his operatic debut, brings Rossini’s vibrant score to life and keeps the performance – a touch under three hours – bobbing along nicely.

It’s hardly cutting edge stuff but it was enough to tease lots of appreciative noises from the Coliseum faithful. Figaro remains a winner and there’s every reason to suggest this production could last another 25 years.

* The Barber of Seville is at the London Coliseum in St Martin’s Lane until March 17

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