Archive for September 2009

Garden Opera: The Barber of Seville

September 16, 2009

GardenOpBarber

On Friday 11 September, to Garden Opera at Ravenscourt Park, London W6 – the very last performance of their summer-long season, and the only one we could get to!

The weather was kind – not too chilly, and it didn’t rain.  The setting was a lovely peaceful enclosed space, disturbed only by the occasional District Line train and the enthusiastic intervention of some local parakeets.  Handy tea-shop before the performance, loos rather a long dash in the interval…  The audience we presume were mostly local:  pretty much a full house, appreciative and animated.

The opera was Rossini’s BARBER OF SEVILLE, in a very simple, slick and extremely funny production by Katharina Wienecke.  The action was set in ‘Dr Bartolo’s Circus’, seemingly an odd idea but it worked very well, with Rosina ‘The Singing Bird’ (in a cage, of course) as the star attraction, her disgruntled guardian Dr Bartolo a retired animal-tamer, and Basilio an unlikely magician, forever producing scarves, flowers and magic wands from a variety of orifices.  Count Almaviva and Figaro the barber survived relatively unscathed from Rossini’s (or his librettist’s) original conception.  Occasional inconsistencies (Dr Bartolo was required to be a physician after all, to match the text of his patter-aria) either didn’t impinge or were turned into sources of comedy.  And, as in the best Barber performances, there were moments of (almost) genuine pathos.

The show took forever to get going, partly because of interminable if well-intentioned announcements from a distinguished local worthy (over incessant pre-recorded fairground organ music);  then the Overture started as another fairground organ piece, gradually morphing into the ‘live’ orchestra of Peter Bridges and his small but perfectly formed circus band (flute doubling clarinet, trumpet doubling flugelhorn – David Clewlow, no less – plus two violins, cello and the maestro himself on piano).  At long last the opera itself began;  the first scene (even without the chorus) does seem interminable, but that is Rossini’s fault. 

Once the show got up steam (more…)

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