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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Press Reviews: The Barber of Seville
Christine Rice as Rosina
The Barber of Seville (photo by Bill Rafferty)
The national press review the English National Opera's The Barber of Seville.

The Guardian

Jonathan Miller's Barber of Seville is back again. Any other directors who have ambitions to stage Rossini's most popular comedy at the Coliseum will just have to wait.

This production may be on its seventh revival (in the hands of William Relton) but has yet to grow weary or dated, and the company won't be mothballing the costumes just yet.

A delirious coming-together of music and drama in the final ridiculous ensembles

The Times

The staging has Miller's signature all over it: in the swaying of the serenaders in the opening scene, in the slapstick visual gags, in the way in which the best and juiciest lines of Anthony and Amanda Holden's witty English translation are placed so that no one in the audience can miss a joke.

Christine Rice made a sparkling job of her first Rosina. Approaching the role as a real mezzo, with plenty of body in her lower notes, she made the fiendishly difficult coloratura seem easy.

She could perhaps find more brilliance on her topmost notes; if that doesn't develop during this run, it should when the ENO stages its next revival. That's when, not if.

The Times

The singers coped pretty well. Christine Rice, as Rosina, was particularly good, an effortless mezzo who handled her incendiary music with immense grace while acting, when allowed to, with brilliant comic timing.

The rest of the frenetic ensemble were not far behind: Toby Spence overcame some early tuning problems to give an elegant Almaviva, Gordon Sandison's Bartolo was a G&S-style buffo turn with vocalising to match, Mark Beesley was a fantastically sleazy Basilio, and Christopher Maltman orchestrated the mayhem as a spirited Figaro despite suffering from flu.

Toby Spence makes an elegant Almaviva
The Barber of Seville (photo by Bill Rafferty)

The orchestra put in some very refined work. The trouble was that there was more 18th-century restraint than controlled Rossinian madness, but from the Act I finale onwards a new spirit emerged, and thenceforth we had a blessedly unified piece, culminating in a delirious coming-together of music and drama in the final ridiculous ensembles.

If only they could apply this standard to the first half, it would be a hell of a show.

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