The Barber of Seville (Opera Queensland)
QPAC, The Playhouse
July 9 – 23
It was once suggested that if even stuck for review ideas I could always default to descriptor of a show’s ‘colour and movement.’ Far from cliché, however, there is no better pairing to summarise the appeal of Opera Queensland’s vibrant musical fiesta “The Barber of Seville”. Tracy Grant Lord’s striking sets provide no shortage of colour, creating an opulent aesthetic enhanced by Matthew Marshall’s nuanced lighting and inventive use of nooks and clever crannies to add interest to the predominantly light-hearted fiesta of a story.
Dashing Count Almaviva (Virgilio Marino) has fallen for the young maiden Rosina (Katie Stenzel). But Rosina’s guardian Dr Bartolo (Andew Collis) is intent on marrying her himself. This is until the Barber of Seville, Figaro (Brett Carter) determines to unite the young lovers through a series of hilarious schemes that see the Count disguising himself as a solider and a music coach to gain access to Rosina. The result is, as Rosina’s governess Berta (Emily Burke) proclaims, a household in chaos, which suits the opera’s particularly fast pacing. Indeed, it is like a French farce, in Italian, but set in Spain, of entrances, exits and physical comedy, particularly from Brian Lucas as a not-so-token, Riff-Raffesque hunchback servant. It is an opera that thrives on absurdity and disorder in the most delicious of ways.
Each character showcases excellent vocals in accompaniment of their characterisation, especially given the notorious complexity and fast-pace of Rossini’s arias. Really, however, this is Figaro’s show and from the moment he cheekily ascends to the stage from a bumbling entrance through the stalls, in purple and hot pink suit, Germany-based Australian baritone Carter is perfection, capturing his character’s charisma and charm and delivering accomplished vocals to endear the vivacity of Rossini’s score.
As always, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, headed by conductor Roland Peelman provides superb accompaniment, evident from the opera’s fabulous, familiar opening overture, taking everyone back to memory of Looney Tunes’ theatrical cartoon short featuring the music and elements of the opera with Bugs Bunny as the Rabbit of Seville. In particular, the strings section provides precise orchestral support for the onstage voices and when sounds are softened by Andrew Veivers on flamenco guitar, the overall aesthetic benefits immeasurably.
In this 200th anniversary year of the first performance of “The Barber of Seville” Opera Queensland have used the witty work to continue the high standard set in their recent productions. While some purists might cringe at its constant comic inclusions, under the direction of Lindy Hume this impressive production dually proves to be a lavish and accessible treat, especially for audience members new to the artform. The show is riotously funny and full of musical sparkle, making it easy to see how it has become one of the most popular works in the repertoire of many opera companies. And the fact that it is Brisbane season is being followed by a regional tour is added delight.