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Rossini The Barber of Seville


Opera East Productions / Conductor Oliver Gooch

Ryan Theatre , Harrow-on-the-Hill, 21 May 2006


The Count of Almaviva Tyrone Landau

Doctor Bartolo Oliver Gibbs

Rosina Joana Thome

Figaro Paul Carey Jones

Don Basilio David Woloszko

Berta Carola Darwin

Fiorello / Ambrogio / Officer Philip Kay


Director Alastair Boag

Designer Mark Simmonds

Lighting Mark Jones & Alex Watson


In a programme note, Musical Director Oliver Gooch puts forward the opinion that the East of England deserves an opera company equal to Opera North or the Opera Theatre Company in Dublin and hints strongly that this is the position his Opera East Productions is aiming for. As a native East Anglian I fully endorse the sentiment and am already delighted that the East of England now stretches to Harrow-on-the-Hill and only a few miles from my adopted South Bucks home. If I were a gambling person I might also be tempted to wager a respectable sum on OEP succeeding in making that giant leap from a small company mounting one or two shoestring productions in a year to one of established national status.


Gooch himself has an impressive track record, being snatched straight from the repetiteurs course at National Opera Studio to a specially created place on the music staff at ROH where he quickly progressed to assistant conductor. Musical excellence is the essential that he imposes on his company, and with pretty slender means they are already achieving standards that would be the envy of many a larger organisation. Word is getting around, and a discriminating audience (including at least one internationally reno wned singer who was visibly purring with approval) had gathered at the Ryan Theatre for the opening night of The Barber of Seville and what a splendid evening they had.


From the opening notes of the overture it was obvious that here we had an orchestra that was under full control and playing very sweetly. Next the singers, all of them with excellent diction and resisting any temptation to over-sing. I'll start with the heroine as she undoubtedly captured everyone's heart. I had been impressed by Joana Thome (pictd.) when she sang Lucretia a few years back at GSMD but hadn't heard her since, and she has certainly blossomed in the interim. She now displays a lovely creamy mezzo, with accurately controlled coloratura, and dark good looks perfectly set off by a candy-pink outfit.


The tenor is usually the next to grab attention, and Tyrone Landau's Count Almaviva is suitably tall dark and handsome. He sings equally well , growing in confidence as the evening progressed.


Which brings me to the baritones and the title role. Figaro is plot-master general with the whole opera relying upon his nimbleness of mind and action Paul Carey Jones serves up the complete package, he seems to be everywhere on stage simultaneously, playing as much of the comedy through expression as action, and delivering really firm toned singing.


Next the buffo roles: David Woloszko a delightfully understated Basilio and Oliver Gibbs a younger and less urbane than usual Bartolo fine performances from both. Last but not least, I loved Carola Darwin's sneezing, tippling but sharp witted Berta and Philip Kay mopped up the minor roles with good spirit.


Alastair Boag's direction and Mark Simmond's designs made the most of an obviously very slender budget and the music lesson was all the funnier played with an imaginary harpsichord. To sum up in Suffolk dialect If tha' don't be grand success tha' did should !


Watching this production called to mind another Il Barbiere from the equally enterprising Lucerne Opera Company which I have only had the chance of viewing on a private video, but is reviewed by PGW at www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/liveevents/LucerneBarber.htm


Serena Fenwick





© Peter Grahame Woolf