In an audio recording, the distinctive quality of this Netherlands Opera production would go unnoticed, and a lot of people might like it better without pictures. The singing is first-class, with a pert, smart, visually... more » appealing Rosina (Jennifer Larmore), a Count Almaviva who can spin out bel canto melodies and also do a good drunk scene (Richard Croft), a Figaro with lots of personality (David Malis). And conductor Alberto Zedda is an expert in the music of Rossini. But video brings out the fact that, for better or for worse, this Barber of Seville differs radically from other treatments of Rossini's comic masterpiece. Usually The Barber of Seville is an intimate little comedy with a half-dozen solo roles and a small, all-male chorus. Except for a few ensemble numbers, there are usually only two or three people on stage at any given moment, often conversing in stage whispers. Sometimes, in a plot full of secrets and deceptions, supernumeraries are out of place. Dario Fo's staging ignores this stylistic tradition. He gives the solo singers a crowd of artfully choreographed silent partners (including acrobats, dancers, and two men rigged to imitate a donkey), who scamper around the stage carrying ladders and sheets, pushing platforms, waving banners, and making sure that there is always something to amuse the eyes as well as the ears. This staging gives a solid visual embodiment to the comic spirit of the words and music, but it wipes out any pretense of dramatic realism. The Barber of Seville does not pretend to be "a slice of life" and many patrons will find that the energy of these added participants is its own justification. But those who treasure traditional staging and the conventions of realism should be ready for a lively but unconventional production. Perhaps they can listen with their eyes closed and enjoy a first-class sound recording. --Joe McLellan« less
"It saddens me to see that so many people have written negative reviews of this performance, which I consider to be one of the best opera videos currently available. It's not a traditional production -- indeed, we're probably never going to see anything like this again -- but isn't that the whole point? This production is unique, maybe even infuriating at times, but it never stops being interesting. I also happened to find it incredibly entertaining.It helps that there is some amazing singing by Jennifer Larmore, who has a rich mezzo voice with ringing top notes, and who handles the difficult vocal writing with ease. She even looks like the ideal Rosina -- youthful but alluring. The rest of the singers are less amazing, although Richard Croft does a good job with the part of Almaviva, and the late, great Renato Capecchi (who in his prime sang Figaro, but here, just a few years before he died, sings Bartolo) is very characterful.It also helps that this performance is conducted by Alberto Zedda, THE living Rossini scholar, who coaxes the orchestra into providing energetic playing that alternates easily between the vigorous and the gentle, just as Rossini ordered.The sound is actually quite fine, notwithstanding some other reviewers' (inconsistent) complaints about overmiking or undermiking. Yes, it's true that you can often hear the shuffling of feet on stage, but I've never been to a opera performance where there isn't a noticeable amount of stage noise -- it's part of the live opera experience! Perhaps the "Professor" and others below who found this stage noise problematic are used to hearing (or seeing) only souped-up studio recordings of opera. If so, then that is very unfortunate. In this case, the rhythmic footsteps of the dancers are supposed to be a part of the performance, and they are far less intrusive than the coughers and cellophane-candy-unwrappers that one would encounter at any live opera performance.The criticism that baffles me the most, however, is the complaint that there is too much motion and action on the stage in this performance. As far as I can tell, the whole idea behind this production is the key concept that rhythm and perpetual motion are at the very heart of Rossini's music. Incredibly, one negative reviewer below even goes so far as to assert that "all action needs to stop when a singer launches an aria, or during an ensemble." This has got to be one of the most crabbed and narrow-minded conceptions of opera that I have ever read. I, for one, am glad that the days of the old "stand and deliver"-style of opera performance have faded away, and that a performance like this (the very opposite of "stand and deliver") could have been made and preserved on DVD."
Great use of a new technology
gioacchino | Farmington, CT USA | 10/31/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow! I have over 100 recordings of opera on commercial vhs, but this was the first opera I have ever bought on DVD and boy am I glad that this was the choice. The picture is stunning in quality and the sound brilliant in clarity, crispness, and warmth. The score is performed brilliantly at the hands of Zedda, a Rossini expert, and I was left with nothing but tears of happiness after listening to this recording! A great value for those looking for operatic pleasure at its finest!!"
A real Dario Fo comedy
H.P.F. Ariaans | the Netherlands | 10/30/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you like Commedia del Arte, this is an opera for you. Dario Fo makes it impossible not to enjoy it. On stage there happens so much and sometimes so funny that you nearly forget to listen to the opera"
A lot more fun than you might think
email@example.com | 03/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first video Barber of Seville I saw was a VHS with Cecilia Bartoli. So I was scared off by some of the reviews below. Having watched it, I agree with another review: the negative reviews are unfair.True, early on the movements are distracting and there are moments where the crowd noise is a problem. But like any good drama, this staging draws you in. After the first scene or so, the extra action really adds to the production. If you like a static production where the singers just stand around and sing, then, no, you won't like this one. But if you like action that creates a grand spectacle, than you will experience this production more positively. On the whole, it works. I'm no expert in operatic historiography, but this production FEELS right for the genre.I'm also no expert in singing, but the music in this production sounds fine to me.As with "sinyung" I'm giving this 5 stars since it is "so much fun." I burst out laughing numerous times. Isn't that what a great comedy is to do? Yes, there are occasional flaws, but they are more than outweighed by the positive aspects."
Marvelously Sung - a Little Busy: A lot of fun!
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 09/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While Dario Fo has gone overboard - populating every square inch of the set with extras and stage business - this remains, overall, a "fun" Barbiere.
Richard Croft should win an award for execution of all his stage pranks and physical demands while having to sing Almaviva's difficult music. "All'idea di quel metall" is one of the most eye-popping messes I've seen a tenor have to go through; racing up and down a flight of steps that is being wheeled around the stage in constant motion as houses appear and disappear around him, it really is a bit much. Croft never misses a beat and looks to enjoy the athletic aspects of the role Fo has laid out for him. This Almaviva is a perfect blend of arrogant machismo, comic timing, physical agility - like Errol Flynn with high notes.
Beautiful Jennifer Larmore is not given particularly exciting costuming here, but she too exercises all of the business Fo foists on her as well. Una voce poca fa is thrilling singing but the sideshow with her ladies in waiting is a bit much.
I wanted to like David Malis more as Figaro: a terrific actor, lithe and willing to risk life and limb, but the voice isn't quite right for Figaro: his coloratura work is all delivered in an aspirated manner, most noticeable in the Rosina/Figaro "Dunque il son" where Larmore's ability to sing it smoothly makes his aspirated runs sound choppy and out of tune.
After repeated viewings I've found fewer problems with this production and the Act I finale is absolutely mind boggling - impossible to top and produces a riotous ovation from the audience who have all been lathered up into a frenzy. Great fun!!! "