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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) Il barbiere di Siviglia, melodramma buffa in two acts (1816)
Count Almaviva, Dmitry Korchak (tenor); Figaro, Leo Nucci (baritone); Bartolo, Carlo Lepore (bass); Rosina, Nino Machaidze (mezzo); Basilio, Ferruccio Furlanetto (bass); Berta, Manuella Custer (soprano); Fiorello, Nicolò Ceriani (baritone)
Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet of the Arena di Verona/Daniel Oren
rec. live, August 2017, Arena di Verona
Picture Format 1BDSO 1080l Full HD Colour 16:9.
Subtitles in Italian (original language), English, French, German, Spanish Japanese and Korean BELAIR CLASSIQUES DVD BAC169 [162 mins]
The huge space of the Arena di Verona is the setting for this Barbiere. Daniel Oren somehow manages to scale everything perfectly and the Overture is played with real enthusiasm by the Verona orchestra, so it is a pity there is so much going on stage: a ballet, no less, all wigs and fans and mock duels. The Act II storm is similarly involving. Oren keeps the ensembles nicely together too, another not inconsiderable feat of distance management; the second act quintet is particularly memorable.
Huge red roses dominate the generally grey stage and costumes are nicely period, including commedia dell’arte figures. The roses are meant to imply that we are in a garden of love. Instead of seeing Barbiere as opera buffa, director Hugo de Ana sees it as a “comic drama”. In an interview with Fabio Zannoni dating from 2007 and reproduced in the lavishly-illustrated booklet, de Ana goes into some detail as to his thoughts on Rossini’s evergreen opera. He certainly gives us one of the busiest stages at the end of the first act; populous would be the mot juste, but then, spectacle in Verona’s vast space is really the only way. Talking of which, there’s a brief fireworks display at the end.
The most notable name here is Leo Nucci as Figaro, who still has all the presence one associates with him (Nabucco; Germont pèreTraviata, both at Covent Garden). He seems to love encoring the Largo al factotum, hamming it up as much as humanly possible. There’s real affection here from him, both for the piece and for the audience, and the audience clearly loves him right back.
Another veteran is Ferruccio Furlanetto as Basilio, offering a simply excellent “La calumnia è un venticello” (he was similarly excellent in this role in the Leiser/Courier production of Barbiere at Covent Garden in 2016: review). The Count is Dmitry Korchak, a light tenor, agile enough in “Ecco ridente in cielo”, but a little forced; he is outshone by some way by the Rosina, Georgian soprano Nino Machaidze, her “Una voce poco fa” a miracle of supple, joyous singing, her voice with just a touch of glint. She is a real star, and has impressed other reviewers on Seen & Heard International in the role of Mimì (Los Angeles, and, a little more hesitantly, in Geneva), as the title role in Massenet’s Manon in Vienna and a mixed Gilda in Rigoletto in San Francisco.
Bartolo’s long Act I aria fares generally well, including all the patter, while Carlo Lepore also holds the stage well at the exposed beginning to the second act. Incidentally, Lepore impressed as the “other” Bartolo in Mozart’s Figaro at Covent Garden in 2015 (review).
Fiorello, who is a minor role but has to open the opera, is the excellent Nicolò Ceriani; another small but significant role is that of Berta, characterfully done here by Manuella Custer, although with some decidedly strange armography.
This is worth seeing and enjoying, then, and it is good to see late Furlanetto and Nucci preserved here but it is not one I will return to with much regularity, perhaps.