If there was a relationship between the clearly discernible audience enjoyment of a performance and the funding the company receives City of Swansea Opera would be presenting new productions season after season rather than having to revisit old shows to save money.
Fortunately, the fresh and youthful performances from the younger cast members, balanced with some fine character singing and playing from, dare I say, slightly older artists, and a bravura leading man ensured this not “just” a revival.
The Barber of Seville, sung in English, has a pretty gimmick free translation by Bridget Gill, fun costumes from Gabriella Ingram and is pretty much played for as many laughs as it could get. It does so without descending into outright farce and compromising the singing and so does not fail to delight audiences – and that means not just opera aficionados but those who are just giving this form of musical theatre a try. It is an excellent choice for those not sure if opera is for them and with ticket prices for the touring show usually no more than £20 this is where to take a punt rather than another certain company.
This Andrew Gallagher production, revived by the company’s joint artistic director Brendan Wheatley, is clean and uncluttered, lots of jollity with the characterisations, such as Paul Hudson’s ridiculous Don Basilio and Wheatley himself playing a hilarious Dr Bartolo. His performance is as a singer-actor is completely melded into the role, he really make it his own.
Count Almaviva, sung by William Wallace, is a charming, slightly lanky, young chap which works perfectly, as a love-struck young aristocrat who needs a worldly Barber to help him win the hand of Rosina.
Annabella Ellis is his feisty Rosina who is more than a match for both the lecherous guardian, Don Basilio, and is as wily as Figaro himself.
Both of these singers give bright and refreshingly zestful singing performances matched by their comedy presence and timing.
Hakan Vrasmo (Above) sang a confident and rather full of himself Barber, fairly swaggering around at times and with a rich baritone that gave a sort of gravitas to his role, between the prettily sung youngsters and character older characters.
The voice of older sense Berta, sung by Imogen Garner, was also given a bit of a fun reading with her not only vocally expressing her frustration but also flashing a shocking red ribbon/ garter as she lifted her black, old lady dress.
Gary McCann’s cut-out sets are perhaps over-necessarily practical but they do the job, although I found some of James Thomas’ lighting design confusing. Similarly, some of the choreography for the full-voiced and extremely enthusiastic chorus, here members of the Canton Chorus and Haverfordwest Operatic Society, was messy and dramatically added little to the scenes were they appeared. I found the humour from the musicians at the opera’s start a bit leaden and, generally, I would cut down on the prancing about as the show doesn’t need it to be entertaining and charming.
Yet for what this company has to spend they perform miracles and with Swansea City Opera orchestra, under John Beswick, surfing the singers through Rossini’s frisky score and gorgeous lyrical arias and passages, this is well worth a smile-inducing evening out.
- 22.02.2018 Aberystwyth Arts Centre 01970 623232
- 24.02.2018 Palace Theatre Paignton 01803 665800
- 01.03.2018 Octagon Yeovil 01935 422884
- 03.03.2018 Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds 01284 769505
- 10.03.2018 Theatre Severn Shrewsbury 01743 281281
- 17.03.2018 Borough Theatre Abergavenny 01873 850805
- 18.03.2018 Wilde Theatre Bracknell 01344 484123
- 20.03.2018 Theatre Royal Winchester 01962 840440
- 23.03.2018 Taliesin Theatre Swansea 01792 602060
- 25.03.2018 Palace Theatre Mansfield 01623 633133
- 29.03.2018 Town Hall Maesteg 01656 815995
- 07.04.2018 Stiwt Theatr Rhosllannerchrugog 01978 841300
- 13.04.2018 Gaiety Theatre Douglas Isle of Man 01624 600555
- 20.04.2018 Neuadd Dwyfor Pwllheli 01758 704088
- 21.04.2018 Ucheldre Centre Holyhead 01407 763361
- 26.04.2018 Theatre by the Lake Keswick 01768 774411
- 28.04.2018 The Spa Bridlington 01262 678258
- 04.05.2018 Harrogate Theatre 01423 502116
- 12.05.2018 Middlesbrough Theatre 01642 815181