Review by Olivia Ruggiero
A fun, raucously entertaining night at the opera, where donning a fake moustache is heavily encouraged. Opera Australia’s touring company opened their production of Barber of Seville at Riverside Theatre’s Paramatta before they jet off around the country to entertain the masses. This fabulous Rossini comic opera is pulled off with great flair by the company, and the Opera Australia orchestra conducted Siro Battaglin.
The fun begins during the overture as the cast pop up around the set wearing hilarious and brilliantly groomed pink beards and moustaches – the colour doesn’t end there. This production is very much steeped in a steam punk era, but with many bright colours and stylish wigs. A complete win for costume designer Sabina Myers across the board with bright red pants, pin stripe suits, bright green dresses and many more costume highlights. It’s funky and fresh and perfectly reflects the quirkiness of the story and the farcical events that unfold.
Director Priscilla Jackson has done a wonderful job of staging this comedy with great physicalising from the actors and comic asides that help the story along.
The set is designed brilliantly, obviously built to travel, and fit into many different spaces but works well to create the various settings around Seville. This is a rare opera where taking it out of it’s time may actually work well, and may actually help it be more accessible for a younger generation – the set certainly reflects this modernity and fits in well with the costume design.
Cathy Di Zhang is a lovely Rosina, who navigates Rossini’s tricky coloratura passages with ease. She is youthful, cheeky and brings a contemporary feel to the character. Whilst her voice is lighter than most of the cast’s she is able to be heard in the din of the ensemble numbers (of which there are many!) and her technique shines through. She has wonderful chemistry with John Longmuir who plays the famous Count Almaviva. Longmuir has a very big voice but at times he loses technical proficiency in his attempt to sing large top notes – when he is singing with great technique though his voice soars and his top notes are glorious. He does a marvellous job of tackling some different arias, with very dexterous passages.
Christian Haotian Qi is a fun Figaro and has a great Baritone voice – it’s rich and robust and lovely to listen to. He has plays Figaro with great flair, and his energy is infectious.
Shane Lowrencev and Dominica Matthews are stand outs on the night – though they have only small roles, every time they are on stage they are fabulous and Matthews’ shines in her aria – what a voice!
This is an opera that you can’t help but to enjoy – it’s something for the whole family and very accessible. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great introduction to opera. With lots of laughs, a great story and an Act 1 finale that will leave you cheering and wanting more, this opera is one not to be missed and if it’s headed to a town near you – be sure to nab a ticket.