By a feat of organisation worthy of Figaro himself, Bath Opera opened their summer tour of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville at Wincanton Memorial Hall on July 8th. Continuing Covid restrictions limited the audience size, but those who were privileged to attend enjoyed a sparkling evening of opera, full of comedy and spirit as well as vocal athleticism. The pared-down version, in English, used spoken dialogue rather than recitative, making the show particularly attractive to opera novices, and helping everyone through the twists and turns of this comedy, full of disguises, mislaid love letters, narrow escapes and bribery, before we arrived at the happy ending.
Director Jane Clark and Musical Director Peter Blackwood had assembled a talented cast. One of the delights of this show was how well the artists worked together as an ensemble, despite what must have been a trying rehearsal period. While the roles are basically stock characters, derived from the Commedia dell’Arte, the cast succeeded in bringing out subtleties of character and comic nuances which the audience much enjoyed. The set pieces were imaginatively staged; the Act 1 Finale, for example, beginning with each character frozen and building to a musical climax expressed through well-choreographed movement.
What a treat it was to hear live operatic voices again! Michael C.T. Lam had a wonderful richness of tone as Figaro, giving a virtuosic performance of Largo al Factotum, though he might have been more comfortable singing it in the original Italian. Niall Hoskin and Edward Harper relished their roles as the comic seniors Bartolo and Basilio, and their long experience on the operatic stage showed in their crisp singing. The absolute stars, fittingly, were the young lovers Rosina (Katherine Cooper) and Count Almaviva (Robert Felstead), both with gorgeous voices, great dynamic control, and precise ornamentation; added to this, both giving excellent acting performances. Company members in the smaller roles added to the vocal richness as well as the fun.
The venue’s pocket-sized stage and awkward acoustics led to a little rockiness of dynamic balance at times, leading to some occasional, and forgivable, tempo issues. Fortunately, having now got the measure of the hall, Bath Opera have arranged a return visit on August 11th as part of their tour. Do catch this entertaining and musically uplifting show if you can!
Notes For Editors
Bath Opera’s summer tour continues with performances July 15th/16th in the Rondo Theatre Bath, and (in August), Great Chalfield Manor, Strode Theatre Street, a return visit to Wincanton, and Kingsbury Green Academy, Calne
Details of all performances with box office, photos and video trailer may be found on www.bathopera.com.
‘The Barber of Seville’ is financially supported by South Somerset District Council’s Wincanton regeneration project, and by Wincanton Racecourse
Other photographs are available.
Enquiries to 01963 34196 or 07713 501 700
Figaro Michael CT Lam
Count Almaviva Robert Felstead
Rosina Katherine Cooper
Dr Bartolo Niall Hoskin
Don Basilio Edward Harper
Berta Becky Holden
Notary, Soldier Richard Hathway
Officer John Clark