For his first opera production, Dario Fo, the theatre director known for his brilliant wit, chose to stage Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia for the Netherlands Opera. First mounted in 1987, it was a huge success and a live recording of its revival in May 1992, the 200th anniversary of Rossini's birth, has been made. Fo has said that 'Rossini is the musician of eating and love. He composes music rich in herbs and aromas, in which you find olives, tomatoes, fish, grapes, roses and rosemary, sheets and tablecloths, dry wine and the laughter of girls.' His 'Barbiere' is a joyful carnival. During the overture he fills the stage with carnival revellers and immediately the commedia dell'arte origins of opera buffa are restored. Visual theatrics abound, never at the expense of the music, but highlighting it, engaging the eye as well as the ear. Fo addresses the heart more than the intellect and Rossini's comedy comes up dazzling and vital.
Il barbiere di Siviglia, ovvero La precauzione inutile (The Barber of Seville, or The Useless Precaution) is a comic opera by Giovanni Paisiello from a libretto by Giuseppe Petrosellini, even though his name is not identified on the score's title page. The opera was first performed on 26 September 1782 (old Russian calendar, 15 September) at the Imperial Court, Saint Petersburg. It was adapted from the play Le Barbier de Séville of Pierre Beaumarchais. The full title for the opera reads: "Il barbiere di Siviglia, ovvero La Precauzione inutile, dramma giocoso per musica tradotto liberamente dal francese, da rappresentarsi nel Teatro Imperiale del corte, l'anno 1782" (Trans: "The Barber of Seville, or The Useless Precaution, comical drama with music freely translated from the French, presented at the Imperial Court Theater, the year 1782")
In Parma, where audiences are considered the most discerning in all Italy, the benchmark for vocal artists is set traditionally high. Operagoers here are intimately familiar with the works of their favourites, from Rossini to Puccini, and know every tricky corner by heart. God forbid any singer who fails to accomplish the task without due seemliness Unsurprisingly, then, this performance attempts no directorial experiments. The main setting for this realistically inspired production both indoors and out is Rosinas house, which is converted as required into its constituent parts.
The stellar cast of this popular opera includes superb singers as well as excellent actors like Kathleen Battle, Leo Nucci, Rockwell Blake, Ferruccio Furlanetto and Enza Dara
Critical praise for this production: “One of [the Met’s] most ingenious stagings in recent years…made to order for a great Rossini ensemble” (New York Times ) – and for this ensemble: “Battle’s coloratura flowed with astonishing ease and grace, beautifully varied in color” (New York Times). “Alongside Battle’s stunning Rosina, the cast is close to ideal…Blake’s Almaviva is extraordinary…Nucci is a remarkable Figaro…Furlanetto makes a formidable Basilio, Dara an irresistible Bartolo” (Répertoire)
Of Rossini’s thirty-nine operas Il barbiere di Siviglia is the only one to have remained in the repertoire since its composition. When the composer met Beethoven in Vienna the great man told Rossini to only compose buffa operas like Il Barbiere. Verdi was also a great admirer of the work as he was of Rossini’s opera seria and particularly his William Tell. Il Barbiere was one of the works Rossini squeezed in during his contract as Musical Director of the Royal Theatres at Naples and where he was supposed to present two new works every year.
Captured live at London’s Royal Opera House, this Barbiere, with its unbeatable cast and the directors’ characteristic wit and intelligence, offers a unique dramatic twist: Joyce DiDonato, who had broken her leg on the opening night, went on with the show. As she said: “Being trapped in the wheelchair was a quite literal way of demonstrating Rosina's huge desire to break free.
Claudio Abbado’s youthful Beatlecut marks the age of this film‚ still one of the better screen Barbieres if not absolutely the best. JeanPierre Ponnelle based it on his Scala stagings‚ but filmed it‚ as he always preferred‚ in studio and in lipsync – more successfully than most. As a result‚ it looks and sounds very much fresher on DVD than contemporary videotapes.
The Naxos label has done a wonderful job of providing opera-lovers with inexpensive recordings of both repertory and rare operas. This recording of Rossini's perennial "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" sets a standard which will be hard to sustain. The orchestra, a group of players from the Hungarian State Opera, are lively and alert to the musical presentation desired by conductor Humburg. The soloists are, with few exceptions, wonderful. Roberto Servile in the title role is as good as modern baritones get in the role–he sings well and is having a marvelous time of it. Franco de Grandis sings splendidly as Don Basilio. Sonia Ganassi, singing Rosina, brings good coloratura technique to Rossini's sometimes fiendish writing, but somehow lacks those indefinable qualities which make a great Rosina…