Il barbiere di Siviglia
CAST: Figaro: Pietro Spagnoli; Conte d’Almaviva: Juan Diego Florez, Rosina: Maria Bayo, Don Bartolo: Bruno Praticò, Don Basilio: Ruggero Raimondi, Berta: Susana Cordon, Fiorello: Marco Moncloa
Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Real, Madrid
Gianluigi Gelmetti, conductor
Directed by Emilio Sagi
The production of Gioacchino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia recorded on this DVD was staged at the Teatro Real de Madrid. It has its strong points and its flaws as any other recording, but the fact that this is one of the most famous operas all over the world has for consequence that the latter has more prominence that what it might have with a lesser known opera.
The set design is simple, essential, and the few elements do not allow to have but an indefinite idea of the place and time of the action. This does not mean that the staging is not fine, only that it is a bit cold and the lights do not heat up the atmosphere. Anyway, there are few nice elements, as the suggestive view in perspective of a street of Seville in the moonlight in the first scene of Act I or the lovely wallpaper with Rossini’s portrait adorning Don Bartolo’s house. The costumes of the singers reflect the same direction. Apart from Almaviva’s uniform in the last scene of the first act, the only colours are black and white and a note of colour finally appears at the end of the second act, when Rosina and Almaviva wear two shocking pink costumes and Figaro stands out with his red jacket.
Although the setting has its colourful elements next to the black and white ones, Gianluigi Gelmetti’s conduction is constantly pale. He is precise, even sturdy, but, this granted, there is not enthusiasm, no “Rossini fever”, not even in the eventful finale of the first act, and the effect is rather soporific.
Predictably, Juan Diego Florez steals the show singing one of his eponymous roles, the Count of Almaviva, with the usual freshness and with new variations, of which he makes a fine showing from the first aria Ecco ridente in cielo to the marvellous rondo Ah, il più lieto, il più felice at the end of the second act. His voice is purely Rossinian, large, ringing and perfectly suited for coloratura and agility. There is not a moment when the tenor seems to be in difficulty and his Almaviva is sweet, romantic, but also intrepid and ready to disguise himself with the best good will. Next to the “serious” moments that reveal his greatness once and for, the funny duet with Don Bartolo at the beginning of the second act (Pace e gioia) reveals Florez’s amusement and his wish to entertain, besides to his versatile talent.
Maria Bayo does not shine for the beauty of her voice and even as an actress she is not particularly inspiring. Her Rosina hits the right notes, has a good command of the coloratura and is enlivened by some luminous high notes, but the character has definitely lost her wit.
Pietro Spagnoli is an elegant – maybe too much elegant – Figaro in possession of powerful vocal means that anyway are not used to give the idea of an intelligent, shrewd barber with a high opinion of himself, as Figaro should be. Spagnoli sings well, is quite a good actor, but his Figaro is indifferent, even detached.
Bruno Praticò is a gorgeous Don Bartolo. He sometimes exaggerates the pronunciation of some words and maybe someone will not like this effect, but this exaggeration is appropriate to Don Bartolo’s character, although in the end he appears more unrefined than usual. Apart from this personal choice, Praticò is one of the most valuable members of the cast, in possession of the soundest technique. His phrasing is natural and his sillabati are among the best ever heard, as in the nice duet with Almaviva Pace e gioia, where it is possible to understand every single word.
Ruggero Raimondi is a frightening Don Basilio and his dark timbre accentuates the impression that we are in front of an evil slanderer. His voice is not firm as some time ago, but it must not be neglected that Raimondi was already in his sixties when he recorded this Barbiere and his efforts deserve absolutely a praise.
The minor roles of Berta and Fiorello are sung quite well by Susana Cordon and Marco Moncloa.
This production of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is good, though not excellent, and it deserves to be watched only for Florez and, with some reservations, for Praticò and Raimondi.