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Rossini Il barbiere di Siviglia

The Count of Almaviva Brad Cooper

Doctor Bartolo Eric Roberts

Rosina Frances Bourne

Figaro Toby Stafford-Allen

Don Basilio Matthew Hargreaves

Berta Sarah Redgwick

Figaro's Assistant Jacob Moriarty

Conductor Robert Dean

Director Tim Carroll

Designer Roger Butlin

Lighting Colin Grenfell

Opera Holland Park 2 July 2007

 

This was my first visit to Opera Holland Park this season with its newly enlarged theatre space. It was a day on which the weather claimed more than its fair share of our attention. Throughout the performance the sound of raindrops drumming on canvas provided an unwelcome background and just as Rosina (Frances Bourne) was about to embark on Una voce poco fa the heavens opened and, figuratively speaking, threatened to drown out her voice completely. Eyes were drawn to cascades of water falling from the edges of the canopy, and umbrellas sprouted at the sides of the auditorium.

 

Sitting in row U, the intimacy with both stage and orchestra pit that I have always enjoyed at this venue was missing, and I must express some concern over the extra force that the young cast had to exert in projecting their voices. Toby Stafford-Allen (Figaro) and Brad Cooper (Almaviva) settled for a relentless forte throughout, though the latter redeemed himself by well characterised acting, and Frances Bourne (Rosina) was pushed beyond what I would judge to be her comfort zone.

 

Tim Carroll's direction followed the libretto intelligently without adding inspiration or surprises. . The device of Figaro's assistant - a child actor bringing off a succession of stunts palled before the end and too often relegated Figaro to the role of bystander rather than instigator.

 

The storm was mercifully calmer during Act II and the comedy really began to work. Roger Butlin's pen and ink sets are elegantly stylish and perfectly displayed his colour scheme for the costumes: shades of rouge from candy pink roses ornamenting Rosina's frock, cherry piping on Don Basilio's academic gown, bold scarlet for the military, to crimson madder for Figaro's wig and jacket, offset with a black and white spectrum. Matthew Hargreaves (Basilio) used his gangly appearance to good effect, and Sarah Redgwick presented a nice cameo as Berta.

 

I noticed a couple of lapses of concentration in the orchestra pit, quickly picked up by conductor Robert Dean. Overall this was an enjoyable evening, and a tribute to the stoicism of the Holland Park audience who picnicked enthusiastically despite the weather.

 

Serena Fenwick

q.v. The Stage: one of the least funny Barbers you're likely to see... (Ed.)