NZ Opera: Bravo, The Barber of Seville!

What a show! The Barber of Seville last night was incredible, delightful and thoroughly entertaining.

The cast were animated, enjoying the performance so much it was infectious.

Hats off to the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, conducted by NZ Opera's Director of Music, Wyn Davies, who had me tapping in my seat along with Rossini's well-known score.

Directed by Australian Opera's Lindy Hume and performed by New Zealand Opera in conjunction with Opera Queensland and Seattle Opera, this show has it all: deceit, disguise, exploitation, romance and humour in spades.

The Barber of Seville is composer Rossini's classic comic opera. An Italian Opera, it is set in 18th Century Spain and was adapted in 1819 from a French trilogy of plays staged by Pierre Beaumarchais.

The performance, even with its twists and deceipts was easy to follow, although sung in the original Italian, with Engish surtitles. It was superbly acted, with a few hints of contemporary life (did anyone note Figaro's resemblance to Zohan?)

Figaro, the Barber, was played by baritone Morgan Pearse. He's been performing this role since 2015 and it shows - he's relaxed into the role, singing it very naturally. His sensual gestures had us in stitches. His voice blended beautifully in duets with the Count, played by John Tessier.

John Tessier (Canada) did a marvellous job of playing variously Count Almaviva, a drunk soldier, and a holy music teacher with a striking resemblance to Ozzy Osbourne, in his attempts to get close to his love interest, Rosina.

Tessier's tenor wrapped itself around Rosina's mezzo soprano, making a truly heavenly marriage. All good comedies end with a marriage.

Rosina, sung by Sandra Piques Eddy, is of course the star of the show. Sandra is delightful and formidable in this role, convincingly playing a teenager both in love (with Almaviva) and disgusted by her elderly guardian's affections for her. She is gorgeous, and the range of her beautiful voice is nothing short of impressive.

Andrew Collis, as Dr Bartolo, is actually a young man under all that clever makeup and costuming. He's recently performed with NZ Opera, although you might not recognise him, except for his rich bass baritone. He plays a doddery old man convincingly. Christchurch audiences may remember him as Poo-Bah in NZ Opera's 2017 production of The Mikado.

I especially enjoyed Andrew Collis' resounding duets with Ashraf Sewailam, who plays Don Basilio, the music teacher. Ashram also has a deep  bass baritone, purring deeply like a lion reaching those very low notes.

Special mention goes to Morag Atchison, who gave a strong, sensual and funny performance of Berta, the maid. She had a wonderful voice, and the servant's antics almost stole the show.

I was most impressed by the innovative set design, by Tracey Grant Lord. For the overture we see projections of light on the set windows, which later open up to create the windows of the market and the interior of Dr Bartolo's residence (and Rosina's 'graveyard.')

The hilarious physical comedy, dancing (that you just don't expect at the opera) and the joined voices of the chorus together took this show to great heights - quite possibly the best opera I've ever seen.

Thank you to the staff of the Isaac Theatre, who were friendly and welcoming - the humour began at the door.

If you have never seen an opera, you would love this one. Go and see the show. Bravo!

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