Rossini: Il Barbiere Di Siviglia
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An opera buffa, a comedy, a masterpiece of intrigues, lies and love! 'Il Barbiere di Siviglia' (The Barber of Seville), an opera in two acts by Gioachino Rossini, from the Teatro Regio di Parma. The production stars Dmitry Korchak as Il Conte d'Almaviva, Ketevan Kemoklidze as Rosina, Luca Salsi as Figaro and Giovanni Furlanetto as Don Basilio. The aging Doctor Bartolo longs to marry Rosina; but with the aid of the energetic and enterprising barber Figaro, the Count succeeds in gaining entry to Bartolo's house disguised first as a soldier then as a music teacher. When Bartolo becomes suspicious, he quickly summons the notary to set the seal on his marriage to Rosina. But Figaro and Almaviva are already one step ahead and the marriage contract is signed by the Count, who at last reveals his true identity. Bartolo receives generous compensation, however: the Count waives the dowry that Bartolo ought otherwise to have paid as Rosina's guardian although he is made to share the sum with Figaro. All's well that ends well? We catch up on the couple's subsequent marriage problems in the second part of Beaumarchais Figaro trilogy, La folle journée ou le Mariage de Figaro/ One Mad Day or The Marriage of Figaro, which Mozart set to music in 1786 under the title Le nozze di Figaro.
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Otherwise lots of fun but long for sure.
There reason I think it's worth mentioning some of the background around the composition of the opera (which caused some fuss on its premiere in Rome in 1816, partly due to favouritism for Paisiello's work and partly due to some attempts by supporters of Paisiello to actually sabotage its reception), is that this spirit of inventiveness, irreverence and simply just dashing it off in an off-handedly brilliant fashion is crucial to the tone of the work. It's the same spirit that fires the youthful enthusiasm of Figaro, of Rosina and even of Almaviva and sets them in opposition to the old guard of Doctor Bartolo and Don Basilio (although little remains of the pointed barbs of Beaumarchais' revolutionary satire). Even if you are unaware of its background, you should really get a sense of this from any production of the work itself, which is why ultimately it's a little disappointing that this production recorded at the Teatro Regio di Parma in 2011 - otherwise competently produced and very well performed - couldn't be a bit more lively.
On the positive side, while the stage setting itself initially isn't much to look at, it's actually quite inventive, with some appropriately imaginative touches to allow the work to flow through each of the two acts. So while in Act I, Doctor Bartolo's house looks like a cardboard cut-out, with there being little sense of realism in the location of it actually being in street, much less a street in Seville, there is at least a balcony for Rosina, and some attempt at period costume, and really that's all that is necessary for the opening scene. The cleverness of the set is revealed in the subsequent scene when it opens up to reveal the interior of the house - again, quite simply - but through a few smart devices including a mountain of books, and through the colouration and lighting, it captures that sense of improvised brilliance, as well as being functional for the vital flow of the work and its humorous situations.
While the set is well-equipped to handle the flow and spirit of the work, the stage direction of the performers and the situations is however rather lacking in fire, personality and, sadly, in any real sense of humour. It all feels rather flat. The orchestra of Parma are fine under the young 23 year old conductor Andrea Battistoni, giving a vigorous account of the overture, and the performance of the score throughout is excellent, but after a while it also seems to just drag along with the lifeless stage direction. It's no fault either of the singers, who are mostly wonderful. Ketevan Kemoklidze's Rosina in particular is superb, with a sparkling vitality in voice and character, but Luca Salsi's Figaro and Bruno Praticò's Bartolo also rise to the challenging and invigorating cavatinas and cabalettas of the work. Dmitry Korchak, while he has a pleasant musical tone of voice (much like his performance in the Pesaro La Gazza Ladra) unfortunately doesn't have sufficient force, range or personality to carry off Count Almaviva.
All in all however, this is a reasonably good production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia. It looks good, it's well-sung and well-performed, only lacking a spark of imagination in the direction, pacing and humour that really ought to be there to set this dazzling and entertaining work off. Image quality on the Blu-ray release from Arthaus is excellent, the image beautifully clear even in darkened areas of the stage, and there are strong HD sound mixes in PCM Stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1. Other than Trailers for other releases, there are no extra features on the disc. The Blu-ray is BD50, 16:9, 1080i full HD. Subtitles are in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese and Korean.
The audio recording is very, very, good. Video is good, but don't expect Hollywood-level camera work. It's a bit fuzzy at times and you can notice some artifacts and macroblocking in red colors.
Besides technical considerations, what I didn't like is the unnecesary "loose" behaviour of the characters on stage. Parents watching this with children (or young opera lovers watching this with parents) should know that this version has more sensuality than other versions. Namely:
-Figaro tries to touch Rosina in the waist and she slaps him.
-The count puts his face in Rosina's bosom (During this scene my dad said: "Turn that off!")
-The count and Rosina get in bed, but are stopped by Don Basilio approaching
-Berta flirts with the off-stage piano player, and puts his face in her bosom.
So, good performance, not as funny as the MET version (available online in MET On demand), but good overall. Just watch it by yourself before you watch it with someone else.