Florence: review of "Il Barbiere di Siviglia"
I am not a connoisseur of opera and have seen less than ten performances in my short lifetime thus far, though there exists a softness in my soul for music that sends shivers with just one note beautifully sung. This note was achieved about 30 minutes into Roberto Abbado’s 2006 production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Florence's Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. During the first thirty or so minutes, Il Conte d’Almaviva (Antonino Siragusa) and his band of musicians entered in true Spanish style: richly colored costumes and a generous amount of sass and spice. A few fanning women sashayed from left to right to enhance the Spanish mood. Mood loomed, indeed, though it was created less by Siragusa as he flawlessly sailed through the introduction and first recitativo and more by the theatrics of the colors on stage. The set was clearly designed to imitate the brightness of Spain, but in stage lighting, registered in tones of exaggeration, instead. After a half hour of mistaking the Florentine opera stage for Alice in Wonderland, the lights dimmed and cleared the air for Almaviva’s shining moment. Accompanied by guitar, he kneeled, pouring out his heart to Rosina in gently elongated phrases. This is the one scene that strays from the otherwise comedic opera and it fulfilled every sound and image of romance:
After the above clip, I got in trouble with the opera house staff for taking photos, so the following includes only sound as I slyly kept my camera in my scarf.
All of Almaviva’s preliminary attempts at serenading Rosina (Daniela Barcellona) were a prelude to the showcase of her voice. In the struggle between Barcellona and the oversized pot of pink flowers painted into the set behind her, the voice fortunately won: she mounted crescendos with full force, rising and sinking with seamless trills:
With the addition of Don Bartolo (Alessandro Corbelli), Figaro (Roberto Frontali), Don Basilio (Giovanni Battista Parodi), and Berta (Giovanna Donadini) to the thickening plot, the comedic aspect began to match the spectacle of color onstage. The theatrics of the finale, "fredda ed immobile / come una statua," descended into an array of seemingly foolish and delightfully amusing antics, one of which included a battle between Rosina and Berta for the spotlight (who knew cameras could have such great acoustics? I tried to sneak some imagery through the scarf here, mostly the opposing wall...a beautiful one at that):
The comedics that resolved Act I continued into Act II as the disguised Almaviva commenced his redundant and roundabout singing lesson with Rosina. Here each individual voice stepped back behind the larger plot and the flurry of events that Rossini designs to plummet towards the ending—an ending somewhat anticipated though not imagined in its specific orchestration. Equally stunned is the cast, all awashed with the amazement of their drama. A swift round of applause followed, mostly directed at the wildly entertaining Donadini as the larger-than-life servant, Berta.