The Leiser-Caurier “Barber” at Covent Garden has been the contemporary benchmark for productions of Rossini’s sparkling opera buffa, but Annabel Arden’s new one outdoes it through sheer visual sophistication.
With the aid of a posse of Indiarubber mime artists, and drawing on her physical-theatre background with Complicité, she pulls off trick after trick with such speed and deftness that the eye is constantly delighted and dazzled, but it’s all in the service of a convincing reading of the text and a triumphant celebration of Rossini’s musical genius.
For the latter we must thank conductor Enrique Mazzola, who teases out the wit in the score with barbed delicacy, inducing players and singers to deliver the music with perfectly-judged precision, but he does have the luxury of a dream cast. No singer-actor alive can compete with Alessandro Corbelli’s high-octane incarnation of the cuckolded Dr Bartolo, and Janis Kelly’s reading of the maid Berta is sly and original, but the central trio are perfectly teamed.
Soprano Danielle de Niese in Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Bill Cooper)
Danielle de Niese’s powerfully-sung Rosina is a caged and dangerous wild animal, while Björn Bürger’s gale-force Figaro and Taylor Stayton’s mischievous Almaviva are musically and dramatically beyond compare, Bürger’s commanding baritone offset by Stayton’s extraordinarily pure and mellifluous bel canto tenor: move over, Juan Diego Florez.