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The Barber of Seville (Lucas Elkin reviews)

The Barber of Seville
Opera Holland Park
Performance date: 13 June 2024
Star rating: 4

An unseasonably gusty, chilly London evening was transformed into a balmy summer in Seville at Opera Holland Park. Director Cecilia Stinton utilised every inch of the vast performing space, starting with a delightful set of cameos for the all-male ensemble through the overture, setting up a band that will grudgingly perform (albeit well-oiled with alcohol and cash) in Count Almaviva’s (Elgan LlŷrThomas) attempted wooing of Rosina (Heather Lowe).

The fine chemistry between these two actors is clear from the outset: Llŷr Thomas, reminding me a floppy-haired Hugh Grant of the mid-1990s, sings with a brilliance….. whilst Lowe as the feisty, clever Rosina covers the vast tessitura the role demands with the perfect blend of assertiveness and

On summoning Figaro, ostensibly a barber but actually a general fixer, Paul Grant rises to the challenge of perhaps the best-known aria of them all with a fizzy effervescence that carries the character through the entire piece. Stephen Gadd, meanwhile, presents a delightfully pompous Dr Bartolo, Rosina’s guardian, who wishes to marry her himself.

The Act 1 finale, building from duet to sextet is a fine example of the Rossini crescendo. Rising and falling in waves as the characters’ utter confusion and misunderstandings ebb and flow. it was among the finest renditions I’ve ever heard, in which the main characters are joined by Jihoon Kim’s sonorous Dr Bartolo and Janis Kelly’s exasperated housekeeper.

A delightful touch in the music lesson scene was a semi-breaking of the fourth wall, conductor Charlotte Cordery being temporarily replaced at the podium by Almaviva. And it is Rossini’s sparkling score (written at the ridiculously precocious age of 23) that is the absolute star of the show. In difficult playing conditions (a particular nod to David Smith for the continuo, played
presumably with fingers he could barely feel) The City of London Sinfonia’s players under Cordery zipped along delightfully.

I enjoyed the bustle of this production (rarely have I seen so many props used, or actors cover so much ground), Despite the coldness of the evening, it left me with the warm glow of satisfaction of an evening very well spent.


Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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