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Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia [Import]

Joyce DiDonato , Juan Diego Florez    DVD

List Price: CDN$ 33.99
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Close, but no cigar" June 10 2010
By Walter Phelps - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
A minority report, to be sure: for a long time,directors who would stage "The Marriage of Figaro" with the utmost sensitivity have felt free to make its Beaumarchais predecessor,"The Barber of Seville" into a farrago of sight gags, pratfalls, slapstick and any other device to set the groundlings in a roar. This is particularly disappointing in the present instance because the elements for somegthing better were present in abundance: after an extraordinary reading of the overture, the curtain rises on a magical setting...and almoost immediately things begin to go downhill. Joyce DiDonato (demonstrating incredible pluck singing from a wheelchair) and Juan Diego Flores are superb singers but show little involvement in the characters they play. Ferruccio Furlanetto spends an awful lot of energy in "La calunnia" climbing all over Bartolo, bringing down the house, but missing all the real rascality of the part. Why we needed to see Berta, drunk, dismantling the piano during the storm scene to coincide with the thunderclaps is a mystery. Rossini has fallen into the hands of the Dirigenten. For a production that is a truly Mozartean pre4decessor to any "Marriage of Figaro", try the Schwetzingen production from the 1980s with Gino Quilico, Cecilia Bartoli leading a real ensemble: stylish, beautifully sung with believable characterizations and...incredibly funny.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go for the Laffs, Moshe, Go for the Laffs! Nov. 28 2010
By Giordano Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is a "Barbiere" intended to be a 'laff-fest', staged, directed, and conducted for maximum slapstick commedia. If you want your "Barber of Seville" to retain any of the social indignation of Beaumarchais's revolutionary drama, you'd better look elsewhere. That insidious anti-aristocratic message needs to be present in Mozart's "Figaro" but it has always seemed extraneous to Rossini's. I truly doubt that Rossini gave a fig for Beaumarchais's edgy politics. I suspect old Gioachino would have been happily flabbergasted at this broad musical and uproarious dramatic interpretation of his most popular opera. In too many productions, Il Barbiere has become a stodgy 'sacred cow' aimed at traditionalists in the box seats. Rossini had only one use for sacred cattle: tournedos with black truffles.

Conductor Antonio Pappano exposes his buffo nature to the camera as he conducts the overture. Watching him burble and twirl, despite the suave perfection of the orchestra in this overture one has to expect hi-jinks in the opera, and one will not be disappointed. Pappano is irrepressible. Every possible 'special effect' -- quirky rubatos, grandiose grand pauses, etc. -- will be exaggerated to the point of mannerism. But it works. It's a natural extension of Rossini's own mannerism.

Likewise, every singer in this spectacular cast is irrepressible in exaggerating the both absurdity of the libretto and the comedy implicit in Rossini's music. Pietro Spagnoli is a different Figaro, not the usual sly upstart but rather a seasoned rogue with generous instincts for young lovers. Alessandro Corbelli, as Doctor Bartolo, is less the hapless old dupe of most production and more a nasty domestic tyrant, hardly a pushover for Figaro's tricks. If you'd never seen the opera before, you might think he has a chance of thwarting the elopement of his ward Rosina with the disguised Count Almaviva despite the dopey schemes concocted by Figaro. Rosina (Joyce DiDonato) is 'handicapped' dramatically; she sings from a wheel chair, having suffered a broken foot in the premiere performance. It's a brave act by DiDonato, yet I might wish we could have seen what she could do as an actress in fully functional control of her body. The most 'original' characterization is that of Count Almaviva, acted by Juan Diego Florez. He may be a Count, he may wield his privileged identity like a club when the time comes, but he's a nervous, sappy adolescent in this interpretation, hardly an accomplished Casanova. He needs Figaro to boost his confidence.

Florez dominates this production, both dramatically and vocally, as I've never seen/heard any Almaviva do before. Most stagings focus on Figaro; in this one, it's Almaviva who sets the pace, gets the laughs, gets the girl, and properly triumphs in his climactic arias. Figaro is relegated to back stage, despite the robust singing and acting of Pietro Spagnoli. Rossini's "Barber", it turns out, is all about the Count.

Of course, any production of any opera is really "all about" the singing, right? That's still true in this new age of operas on DVD, when we see the faces of the singers up close, when a craftier physical acting technique has become a necessity. Look closely at these singers and you'll see that they are wearing microphones in their hair. The sound you'll hear on the speakers in your home is far more balanced than it would be in an opera house; the singers and the orchestra are almost as acoustically integrated as they would be on a studio CD. To my ears, that's all the better, although I know there are people who would prefer a different sort of miking. The singing on this recording, in my opinion, is too good to be wasted; I want to hear every note fully,

Florez is astonishing. Everybody knows that. Nevertheless, I didn't expect such 'historically informed' athleticism from him. He tosses off the flashiest ornaments and arpeggiated phrases of his arias as lightly as a dropped handkerchief. Possibly it was the 'presence' of Joyce DiDonato that inspired him to such virtuosity. DiDonato is a singer thoroughly imbued with the aesthetic of "historically informed performance." She approaches Rossini from the performing tradition of the 18th C baroque and rococo rather than retroactively from the 19th C of romanticism and verismo. In any case, Florez and DiDonato sing this opera in the same stylistic language, and the result is fantastically exciting.

Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier were the stage directors of this 2009 Covent Garden production. I wish, oh I wish, I'd been there!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars scintillating ensemble performance April 29 2010
By Ivor E. Zetler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Rossini enthusiasts will be delighted with this recent Covent Garden production. The principal attraction of this set will be the involvement of Juan Diego Florez (Almaviva)and Joyce DiDonato (Rosina), two stars of the curent operatic firmament. DiDonato deftly and heroicly transports herself in a wheelchair, having fractured her fibula on the opening night. There are other attractions to this performance, firstly the uniformly satisfactory singing of the entire cast and secondly the excellent ensemble of all involved. Additionally Alessandro Corbelli's singing and acting in the part of Dr Bartolo is exceptional.

Although the stage setting is simple (and economical), with the action mainly occurring in a single room, it suits the concept of the production. The costumes are colorful. Antonio Pappano elicits sparkling playing from the Covent Garden orchestra. The filming and audio quality are very good. While I would not consider myself a particular Rossini enthusiast, I enjoyed this performance enormously and strongly commend it to potential purchasers.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Wheelchair" Barber of Seville on DVD Jan. 10 2011
By Matt B - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The "Wheelchair" Il Barbiere di Siviglia - London July 2009

At the beginning of this Virgin Classics DVD instead of seeing music director Antonio Pappano give the downbeat to commence the overture to Rossini's popular comedy, we see him onstage appearing before the curtain of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden to announce that Joyce DiDonato will be performing the role of Rosina in a wheelchair! Having had an accident during opening night shortly after "Una voce poco fa", and being quite the trooper, she decided not to cancel her run of performances. Considering that the staging would have to be modified in a very short time the results are nothing short of amazing... and boy can Miss DiDonato act... and spin around in a chair... and actually use the chair as a prop to the character's advantage. Plus the girl can sing as well!

Now when librettist Cesare Sterbini has Rosina say that she has a cramp in her foot I am quite sure that he never ever expected the line not only to get a hearty laugh, but a warm round of applause as well! At any rate, DiDonato steals the show and that is not an easy feat considering that her Almaviva is the celebrated Juan Diego Florez... and it is normally his job to pilfer the limelight from the title character. In fact, the cast is strong from top to bottom with Pietro Spagnoli a robust Figaro, Alessandro Corbelli a conniving Bartolo, and Ferruccio Furlanetto as a slimy Basilo... with only the later considerably sacrificing vocal accuracy for dramatic effect. If anything he is the weak link in the cast from a purely vocal standpoint, but visually and histrionically he gives a tour de force performance. Even the Berta is quite good. Plus Pappano knows his way around the score which is performed in the relatively new critical edition published by Barinreiter.

As for the production itself, the sets and costumes abound in bright colors with the stage riotously tilting and slanting to good effect signifying the confusion that ends the first act... with the by now infamous wheelchair effectively and energetically joining in the action as well... albeit while remaining on terra firma. If this had all been planned for months on end the final results would not have been any finer...

So, heartily recommended... and destined to become a classic. In fact I transferred the audio portion not only to my iPod, but to CD as well. As such, it has become my current Barber of choice.

Run... or wheel yourself to your local DVD outlet to get it!
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect... but no cigar June 13 2010
By Shimon Schieber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Almost all the voices are gorgeous. Especially DiDonato's, and we all applaud her for her pluck. However, Rosina should not be wheelchair bound, and so the dvd is a curiosity, for collectors, just like a stamp printed upside down and in a limited edition.
Pietro Spagnoli is very nice but with a "white voice"- devoid of colour and depth. He, the center role, is completely upstaged by Florez, DiDonato and Corbelli, the best Dr. Bartolo since good old Capecchi.
Furlanetto's growls are also nice but his "La Calunnia" has a lot of motion but little umph. Rhys- Davies as Bertha is simply exquisite!
Many of my friends think Pappano is below par here. Not in my book.
If you have already a Barbiere DVD on your shelves, BUY this one as a best second.

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