Rossini: Il Barbiere Di Siviglia

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Il Barbiere Di Siviglia
PERFORMER: Juan Diego Flórez, Joyce DiDonato, Pietro Spagnoli, Alessandro Corbelli, Ferruccio Furlanetto; Royal Opera House Chorus & Orchestra/Antonio Pappano; dir. Moshe Leiser, Patrice Caurier (London, 2009)
CATALOGUE NO: 694 5819 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)

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The revival of Rossini’s comedy at London’s Royal Opera House in July 2009 has already passed into legend. Notoriously, American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato broke her leg during the first night, yet completed the show to huge acclaim.

Even more triumphantly, she returned to film this particular performance some nights later, singing and acting Rosina from a wheelchair in a staggering display of professionalism and, indeed, virtuosity.

That ought to have earned her some sort of medal; but, in fact, she had already won the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Singer award for her appearance in the first run of the show back in 2005 – and you can’t really top that.

Special as she is, both vocally and dramatically, DiDonato forms just a part of a team of singers whose very names would have been enough to cause the booking page of any opera house website to seize up when tickets became available.

There’s master buffo comedian Alessandro Corbelli as a Dr Bartolo of vituperative menace – far from the usual pushover of a dotard. He’s exemplary with both words and notes. As his sinister-comic sidekick Don Basilio, Ferruccio Furlanetto exemplifies age-old Italian vocal values at their best, and is a far finer comedian than one might assume from his serious roles. 

Juan Diego Flórez is the Almaviva of one’s dreams, vocally and musically impeccable, even in the rarely heard last-act aria – usually cut, but reinstated for him – and an actor of enormous charm and intelligence, while in the title role Pietro Spagnoli offers warmth and personality to spare.

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Playing the continuo recitatives as well as conducting, Antonio Pappano ensures a performance of constant vivacity and precision. Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s production, a blend of ancient and modern visuals, matches the music-making perfectly. All three are interviewed in valuable bonus material contained on disc two. George Hall