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Rossini;Gioacchino Il Barbiere

Joyce DiDonato , Roberto Saccà , Ariane Adriani    NR (Not Rated)   DVD


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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmm....... Dec 27 2006
By Bruce Varner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I so wanted to completely bond to this production. In many ways, I loved it. Musically, this is a 5-star production. The costumes and staging are worth 3 stars at best.

Fundamentally, I don't mind this opera being set somewhere in the Middle East. In fact, I actually liked Rosina's entrance being sung initially behind the grating. It was a nice, albeit obvious, metaphor for her virtual imprisonment with Bartolo. Bartolo looked disturbingly like Osama Bin Laden. Figaro's costume was outlandish. In addition to the umbrella hat and glasses mentioned by Mr. Morrison below, he also sported cell phones that somehow adhered to his garment. Pastel greens and pinks abound.

Then there is the staging. Maybe the director of this production was simply trying too hard. "Barbiere" is opera buffa, a legitimate style important in the history of opera. Opera companies all over the world will always do some opera buffa. The reason is simple: opera buffa is fun. You can definitely sell more tickets to "Barbiere" than you can to "Moses und Aaron". That being said, I think we can all agree that Rossini was one of the greatest exponents of the opera buffa style. The point is that this style can stand on its own through the music and libretto. We don't need melodrama-style takes, and random choreography for the opera to be funny. In the end, the costumes and staging have to be handmaidens to the music and libretto. In the case of this production, the costumes and staging took center stage.

In the end though, it has to be about the music. These were some grand performances by top-tier singers. For that reason alone, I am very happy to own this DVD. The weakest link in this tremendous cast was Roberto Sacca as Almaviva. This man is an outstanding tenor who was just not having his best night. He was a little iffy, sometimes great and sometimes not so great. The brilliant American mezzo Joyce DiDonato shines in the role of Rosina, which has quickly become a signature role for her. She handled the Rossini intricacies with panache. Carlos Chausson as Bartolo was marvelous. There's nothing quite like a great Rossini bass. Kristin Sigmundson was very good as Basilio. My singing highlight was baritone Dalibor Jenis as Figaro. His arias were great, his ensemble singing superb. His "Largo al factotum" was so fast that it made me laugh out loud. Now, had he not sung it so cleanly and in tune at that tempo, I would have been complaining. But hey, when you've got it, flaunt it.

I recommend this DVD. Despite the somewhat strange costumes and bizarre staging, the performances are very strong.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superb Musically, But a Distracting Mise en Scène April 11 2006
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This Paris Opera production of 'The Barber of Seville' from 2002 has some problems, in spite of its superb musical qualities. For starters, it is set in Moorish Spain and all the characters look like they might have wandered in from 'The Abduction from the Seraglio' or 'The Italian Girl in Algiers.' The sets are absolutely stunning in their detail of Moorish architecture. But it is distracting to find that Rosina is in purdah, behind an elaborate system of screens (which fall away, of course, when we are allowed to see and hear her). Bartolo, sung gloriously by Spanish basso Carlos Chausson, looks rather more like Fagin from 'Oliver' than a Spanish doctor. Don Basilio, sung by the tall and stately Icelandic basso Kristinn Sigmundsson, kept reminding me of Sarastro. The costume that Figaro (sung adequately by Czech baritone Dalibor Jenis) wears in the first act almost defies description. He wears a little umbrella hat (for American baseball fans with long memories, it reminds one of Maury Wills) and, anachronistically, a pair of spectacles that look for all the world like Blue Blockers. Joyce DiDonato, as Rosina, is in a Turkish pajama outfit with her face covered by a burqa -- she of course removes it when she sings. Roberto Saccà is in a generic Arab outfit. I'm sorry to spend so much time and space on the setting, but it is as if the set and costume designers deliberately wanted to upstage Rossini and his music, and they succeeded. As for the acting, it would not have been out of place in either a silent movie or a high school play. It is hokey-funny, with large gestures and meaningless stage movement. The chorus is given quasi-choreography for no apparent reason except to keep things moving onstage.

However, when we consider the production from a strictly musical perspective, this is an outstanding performance. All the singers are excellent and the ensemble work is really marvelous. Rising mezzo DiDonato makes a delightful Rosina. She is not quite warmed up for her big number early in Act I, 'Una voce poco fa,' and her coloratura there is a bit approximate, but later she is superb. She has a luscious, rich sound. With the exception of Saccà, a fine Rossini tenor, all the rest of the singers are new to me. Outstanding, for me, is the Bartolo of Chausson; what a gorgeous bass voice, handled expertly and with great attention to the text; the villain you love to hate. Jeannette Fischer makes a wonderful Berta, normally a forgettable character, as does Nicholas Garrett as Fiorello, in spite of his ham acting which still manages to be funny most of the time. Conductor Bruno Campanella keeps things moving, has excellent playing in the pit, and is very in tune with his singers. He must be a joy for the singers to work with.

The bottom line, though, is that the set and stage direction are too distracting (for me, at least) for this to be a solid choice. If you are looking for a fresh look at Rossini's evergreen comic opera, this might be for you. But I wouldn't advise anyone to buy this as their only DVD of the work.

Sound is DD 5.1 and LPCM stereo and is quite good. Picture format 16:9. Subtitles: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish. No extras. TT+152 mins.

Scott Morrison
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Barber of Seville May 12 2007
By James E. French - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I purchased this DVD because I wanted to see and hear Joyce DiDonato again after seeing and hearing her sing the role with the New York Metropolitan. I found this production to be different in staging, but with equally delightful singing. It will be an ongoing enjoyment.

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