Opera Lyrica’s production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) by Rossini, performed in the chapel at St Peter’s, was a pleasing venture by a company which aims to improve the accessibility of opera to the public and provide opportunities for those who are keen to get involved. The cast of singers came from around the world, and certainly merited a platform for their talents.
The production was very conventional, featuring the masked characters central to commedia dell’arte, an Italian operatic tradition. The costumes were also opulent and traditional, which meant that the stage itself could be left rather sparse, with touches to suggest a period setting rather than using an overly complicated and cluttered set in such a small venue.
Jorge Franco Bajo, who played Conte d’Almaviva, the romantic lead, brought much charm to his character, and his lovesick pleas to Rosina (Colette Lam) perfectly conveyed the adoration which – seemingly normally in the opera world – can stem from merely glimpsing a girl on a balcony. Rosina herself was played in a scheming and flirtatious manner, which gave depth to the character. The scenes of her pouting and primping at her dressing table contrasted greatly with Dmitry Yumashev’s Don Bartolo, a successful portrayal of the grumpy and cantankerous older man. The most famous moment in the opera is probably when Figaro (Alexandru Nagy) declares his own importance in a piece of music which is beautifully humorous. Paloma Bruce gave a wonderful performance as Berta, whose lovelorn lament both moved and amused. The role of Don Basilio was played subtly by Bragi Jónnson, who brought together the other characters in a scene in which they all attempt to make him leave – mirroring the experience, I’m sure, of most people when a rather boring guest refuses to leave one’s room in college.
Overall. the cast and production were very successful. I hope that Opera Lyrica continues to bring opera to Oxford with many more productions of this calibre.