Il barbiere di Siviglia at The Grange Festival
Michael Chance, the new Artistic Director at the Grange Festival, was an outstanding singer, and is now proving to be somewhat of an extraordinary artistic director in difficult circumstances. He says “We strive to produce work that is informed, supported, creatively imagined and collaboratively executed”.
And do he does. On the back of an outstanding production of Agrippina comes another outstanding production of Il barbiere di Siviglia. If fun is what is required at a Garden Festival opera evening, then Grange Festival has it all in this production. You know you are in for something special when you arrive at the Grange country house to be greeted by Michael Chance wearing the most sublime orange jacket, matching the orangery greeting area.
From the very first bar, the director Stephen Barlow and his choreographer Mitchell Harper surprise us all with an evening of comedy, sometimes slapstick, but never dull, and leaving the audience wanting more – if more were possible.
It was a clever set by the designer Andrew Edwards in a semi-circular form, which moved around, freely allowing for two different sets – one at the front of the house and the other inside the house. There was some audience participation, there was vocal participation by the Conductor, David Parry, but above all there was a cast who lived up to all expectations by the director, choreographer and audience alike.
The high mezzo-soprano of the Rosina, sung by Josè Maria Lo Monaco, always with a huge smile, played and sung her role with great acclaim and was matched beautifully by the ringing tenor of the American, John Irvin, who also showed off some of his piano playing talent. The outstanding Figaro of Charles Rice was vocally secure and rewarding on stage, with an affable personality that had wonderful timing.
The Basilio was sung with great aplomb by David Soar in traditional costume – there was modern costume as well just to confuse us. He belied his natural knowledge of technology when given an iPhone to use or iPods to listen to music! However, it was the fag-wielding Berta of Jennifer Rhys-Davies who was a comic revelation and was outstanding in her aria ‘Il vecchiottio’.
The evening was controlled by the Conductor, David Parry, who led the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and somehow managed to keep the evening together, even if at times there was some struggle here.
Overall, if you like the Barber of Seville, this is a show not to be missed.