This season at the Opera Bastille nearly comes to its end with a refreshing production of Gioacchino Rossini’s opera buffa The Barber of Seville. Directed by Damiano Micheletto, this adaptation of the ever-funny opera is a brilliant one. The set recreates a modest street of Seville, with a snack bar on the left, a drunken man sitting on a chair on the right, and in the middle, an apartment building that belongs to the doctor. With this beautiful set full of warm colours and cracked paint, this opera feels like hanging out in the streets of Seville – the heat inside the opera house also helps with that. One of the director’s influences was the films of Pedro Almodovar, and this appears in the set design but also through the character of Rosina, a rebel, feminist character portrayed by the impressive mezzo-soprano Aigul Akhmetshina.
The Barber of Seville tells the story of Count Almaviva (René Barbera) who, helped by the mischievous barber and local celebrity Figaro (Andrzej Filończyk), tries to court his beloved Rosina (Aigul Akhmetshina) despite her being kept inside by her interested guardian, Bartolo (Renato Girolami).
The first act of the opera is magnificent and funny. The mise en scène works its magic on the public. The central building being a rotating set, allows the characters to move freely in this building, creating an over-the-top, visually impressive effect reminiscent of old school musicals. That device enables epic scenes to happen, just like Figaro’s introduction – which may be the most memorable I’ve seen on stage – or slapstick comedy moments of people hiding and running from others. The second act, less efficient and a bit repetitive, finishes with a wonderful finale, though the most striking scenes are in the first act.
The costumes designed by Silivia Aymonino, are deliciously outdated and basic: the count wants to stay incognito and serenades his loved one wearing a short-sleeved shirt, shorts, and a straw hat. The contrast between the classical score and the modern clothes is surprising but works well with the comedic tone of Rossini’s opera. Two characters have more flashy, memorable costumes: the courted Rosina wears tacky 2000s clothes that reveal her teenage angst, and the (in)famous Figaro, wears a wonderful pink suit that makes him stand out: after all, he is the one directing the other characters and the opera is named after him.
After three hours of laughing and smiling, the cast and musicians were greeted with a long and loud standing ovation. At the end of the representation, I even heard some visibly regular visitors say that ‘The Barber of Seville’ is rarely that good. Bravissimo!
- Music by Gioacchino Rossini
- Libretto by Cesare Sterbini
- Conducted by Roberto Abbado
- Directed by Damiano Michieletto
- Pictures: © Elisa Habere / Opéra national de Paris
- Cast includes: René Barbera, Aigul Akhmetshina, Andrzej Filończyk, Renato Girolami
- Opéra Bastille
- Until 19th June 2022
- Duration: 3 hrs 15 min with one interval