The Barber of Seville

The Barber of Seville State Opera 2021State Opera South Australia. Her Majesty’s Theatre. 11 Nov 2021


Australian Lindy Hume’s impressive opera and festival directing career has her directing three operas this year in three countries, and this one is a huge celebration of invention, colour, comedy and music. The overture alone will captivate the least of the opera-goers among you with its medley of famous melodies. Conductor Graham Abbott explains that after signing a contract to deliver an operatic score in three weeks in the run-up before Christmas, Rossini recycled some previous material to save time. Legend has it that the composer wrote this, his 17th of 39 works for the stage, in 13 days that December in 1815. This production was created in 2016 for the 200th anniversary of opening night in Rome.


The overture is followed by the equally familiar self-introduction of the barber spruiking himself as the social facilitator of Seville. The designers have Morgan Pearse exhibit the off-beat swagger and self-importance - complete with makeup and costume - of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. His sonorous baritone voice navigates the rippling syllabic challenges with astonishing aplomb. Bravo!


If you haven’t been to opera for a while, the days of the non-dieting diva standing statically still like a statue while hitting the high Cs are over. A great operatic voice only just gets you in the door now. Operatic performers are triple threats highly skilled in movement and acting as well. And this we see in abundance in the performance of Katie Stenzel as Rossini’s Rosina. Along with John Longmuir’s Count Almaviva, they are the couple madly in lust. Their gropes at the fortepiano, with faces and bodies wishing for more, all tensely taking place literally behind the back of her guardian, Dr Bartolo, is very amusing and a highlight. Bravo!


The set is as coloratura as Stenzel’s soprano voice. Designer Tracy Grant Lord and lighting designer Matthew Marshall saturate the set with doors and windows, and colour and costumes. Bravo! Associate choreographer Carol Wellman Kelly and director Lindy Hume also keep the eyes interested by mobilising every nuance with complementary and/or farcical business and anachronistic delights. There are a lot of repetitive bars that stretch the story to nearly the three-hour mark, so you have to do something. And of course, there is the heard-but-not-seen Adelaide Symphony Orchestra which sometimes is ungratefully assumed to be a given for their consistent quality. While all these assets were a delight, an hour less would have been fine, but tradition still means something. Go Figaro.  


David Grybowski


When: 11 to 20 Nov

Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre