Review, ENO, The Barber of Seville, London Coliseum by James Ellis

Photo credit: Clive Barda

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

A strike action from the chorus and orchestra of English National Opera would halt my plans to see their amazing Handmaid’s Tale once more. I’m all for their fist raising and standing their ground. They have been through a wringer for some time and it is simply not fair.

In a revival of the marvelous Jonathan Miller, sharply done now thanks to Peter Relton, this classic, faithful Barber is a delight. It’s touching to see the company who have only ever given their all do a piece like this, which is one of the opera world’s most cherished jewels. Rossini takes the famous Figaro story and turns it into a marvelous encounter. The arias are fun, the humor still holds up and the story still grabs.

Conductor Roderick Cox makes the orchestra glisten. The bouncy nature and telling melodies are all brought out on display here. Count Almaviva is Innocent Masuku having fun and is vocally grounded, his past with ENO noteworthy. Charles Rice is a fine Figaro, not the best I’ve ever heard but he looks the part and his comic timing is race car swift as expected. Anna Devin as Rosina, the wealthy heiress is perfect and her arias are a treat of the evening. Her costumes from Tanya McCallin are finely crafted and could easily be seen in a Seville of the era. Curiously I expected to see a few fans in the show, or at least one on Rosina. Perhaps too expensive?

Simon Bailey is in turbo mode as Doctor Bartolo, Rosina’s guardian and foil to the Count in stopping him from courting the young lady. Some great inflections and slapstick made the role great and his voice is balletic for his absurdly quick aria. Don Basilio from Alastair Miles gives off something of the Child Catcher, with a ridiculously large hat to boot. His own aria, arguably the best out of the whole opera, is also a thrill and his presence added to the wit, especially when mucking around with Bailey. Berta, the maid, is from Lesley Garrtett. Though mostly in one half decent aria, Lesley lost some of the tune during the high bits. A minor blip in an otherwise fabulous offering. The hair raising end of act one was worth the trip alone…go and support ENO!!

The Barber of Seville runs at London Coliseum till 29th February 2024

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