Classical review: English Touring Opera: The Barber of Seville

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ENGLISH Touring Opera’s new production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville has been doing the rounds since it opened in London a couple of months ago.

Arriving in Perth for its first Scottish performance, Thomas Guthrie’s compact stage production shows absolutely no signs of travel fatigue.

In fact, the economy necessitated by this small-theatre concept is charmingly reflected in a lively set devised by designer Rhys Jarman. Its practical simplicity – little more than a picture-book, 18th-century, pop-up house interior, with Seville cityscape backdrop – harnesses the stifling atmosphere of a comic opera that famously thrives on intoxicating hustle and bustle.

The menagerie of characters, from the heroic Count Almaviva to the ever-comical Dr Bartolo, fit the set like a silken glove, the enjoyment further facilitated by David Parry’s slick and amusing translation.

Kitty Whately’s Rosina is an outstanding triumph – a spirited portrayal that combines frivolity with affectionate vulnerability. Nicholas Sharratt is a thoroughly convincing Almaviva, perhaps a shade constrained in the upper reaches, but fearless in execution.

For laughs, the honours go to the arch-comedy of Andrew Slater’s Bartolo, sung with glorious clarity and precision and acted with impeccable comic timing. All of which is pleasingly complemented by the slick humanity of Cozmin Sime’s Figaro, delightfully free of caricature.

For the most part, and once it acclimatised last night to the dry theatre acoustic, ETO’s condensed orchestra gives energetic support under Paul McGrath’s direction. A rousing start for the Perth Festival.

Rating: ****