Rossini’s The Barber of Seville staged at Glyndebourne
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Rossini
WORKS: The Barber of Seville
PERFORMER: Danielle de Niese, Alessandro Corbelli, Björn Bürger, Taylor Stayton, Christophoros Stamboglis, Janis Kelly; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Enrique Mazzola; dir. Annabel Arden (Glyndebourne, 2016)
CATALOGUE NO: Arte DVD: OA1238; Blu-ray: OABD7218
Annabel Arden’s Glyndebourne production of Rossini’s comedy combines her taste for physical comedy with psychologically specific performances and – courtesy of Joanna Parker’s vividly coloured sets and costumes – some warm Spanish sunshine. There’s an element of the absurd to the humour, too, though the presence of three manic mimes on stage, regularly intervening in the action and thereby upping the quotient of mayhem, is arguably a step too far. But the music sounds taut and dapper under Italian conductor Enrique Mazzola, while Rossinian ebullience is much in evidence, with the London Philharmonic on precise and lively form.
All of the central performances are finely achieved. High-flying American tenor Taylor Stayton proves vocally agile and dramatically vital as Count Almaviva, with Danielle de Niese an entrancing Rosina – though she’s a soprano rather than the contralto the composer had in mind; he would have accepted the change, however, himself adding an extra aria in 1820 for a contemporary soprano. De Niese gets to interpolate it, though it’s really redundant.
As for Alessandro Corbelli’s Bartolo, his seriousness of comic approach and sheer expertise as a buffo performer place him in the very top league. Björn Bürger is quite rightly at the centre of the action as Figaro and his splendid baritone a major asset. Greek bass Christophoros Stamboglis makes a grand-scale Basilio, while Janis Kelly steals a couple of scenes as Rosina’s old governess, Berta, and Huw Montague-Rendall is a business-like Fiorello.
Picture and sound quality are excellent, with the Blu-ray having the edge over the DVD. Among the extras is a conversational commentary to the whole show provided by De Niese and Mazzola; you can’t hear much of the music underneath them, but as expert insiders they are both entertaining and informed.