It saddens me to see that so many people have written negative reviews of this performance, which I consider to be one of the best opera videos currently available. It's not a traditional production – indeed, we're probably never going to see anything like this again – but isn't that the whole point? This production is unique, maybe even infuriating at times, but it never stops being interesting. I also happened to find it incredibly entertaining…Amazon.com
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.
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 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)
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…
The cast for this Teatro Real de Madrid production is outstanding across the board. Figaro is the glue of any successful Barber— he moves the action ahead and the audience must look forward to his every appearance, vocally and dramatically. From the first bars of “Largo al factotum della città,” we know Pietro Spagnoli’s got the goods, with a satisfyingly solid and nimble baritone and a natural elegance to his movements on stage. Bruno Praticò is a prime basso buffo practitioner, impressively adept with the patter of Bartolo’s first act aria, his representation of the not-so-good Doctor suitably ridiculous, abetted by a Tweedledum/Tweedledee sort of costume. As Don Basilio, veteran Ruggero Raimondi exudes a perfect blend of decrepitude and cunning; if his voice is no longer as resplendent as it was 20 years ago, he still has a wonderful stage presence.
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.