Nico Darmanin (Count Almaviva) and Nicholas Lester (Figaro).Pictures: Richard Hubert Smith

The Barber of Seville

Welsh National Opera

Birmingham Hippodrome


AS someone who is new to opera I would have to say that I seldom get bogged down or distracted by the minutia of the score or make comparisons to some other performance and productions as a way of valuing or undermining a work.

In that sense I am free to enjoy the work on nothing but that which is presented to me and enjoy this I did.

The Barber of Seville is a comedy aboutFigaro lovers sneaking through windows, disguises, imposters, lust and deceit all set in a society of the rich and glamorous.

Sam Brown’s production builds on this atmosphere and on into great pantomime and slapstick. It is in many ways an opera that fits into the Morcambe and Wise Christmas show format. It’s good wholesome entertainment and one of the few operas that I have genuinely laughed at.

The translation by Kelly Rourke help enormously to contemporise a fair amount of the text whist fitting beautifully with many of the heavily punctuated parts such as Rosina’s first aria.

Location has little to do with the overall stage presentation with designer Ralph Koltia opting for modern translucent Perspex panels which cleverly allow us to see both the interior and exterior of a room.

Nicholas Lester as Figaro with an early form of Twitter

These huge panels pivot, changing the aspect to either view and then provide for sweeping architectural movement in some of the other scenes.

In the role of Rosina, Claire Booth was perhaps a sweeter choice in voice than most would like but added a lacey girlish charm to the part.

Nico Darmanin as Count Almaviva has great precision in his clean tenor and energetically played up to the characters of his various, devious disguises.

Although the central character, Nicholas Lester as Figaro had a marginally lesser workload, he held many of the vital scenes together as the slightly affected coiffeur. Adding to the comedy was his physical height over Nico Darmanin and several of the scenes made much of this. 

Andrew Shaw’s delivery of Doctor Bartello had great comic timing although his character and lust for Rosina was presented in a slightly too exaggerated, seedy and overbearing manner at times.

Adding the `dog on stick ‘puppet to Richard Wiegolds portrayal of Don Basilio generated much laughter something that was appreciated by many of the younger members of the audience. 

James Southall conducted and seemed to leave much of the comic timing to the performers at times before reaching major passages and the adding a burst of energy when needed.

The purists might not like this production overall but the audience on this night certainly did .The characters are more like caricatures, Seville is more of notion than a setting but the comedy is on point and executed very well.

For that reason it’s a cut above the rest Performed again on Saturday, 5 March

Roger Clarke




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