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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 30 October 2009
This was my third Barbiere so far this year and it is only May so I was not exactly looking forward to it. I put it on at 9 pm after a hard day's work and watched it right through till after midnight. It was so good that it was like hearing and seeing the opera for the first time. Right from the overture, with Gianluigi Gelmetti conducting the orchestra of the Real Teatre in Madrid, it is clear we are in for something special. The curtain rises to a Seville street scene in black and white. All the characters wear black and white costumes.The effect is strangely beautiful.

The first half hour of this opera, until Rosina's entrance can be a little bit tedious but not in this production. Juan Diego Florèz as Count Almaviva shows why he is currently the world's leading Rossini tenor. I loved his serenade at Rosina's window and the fact that, instead of his pretending to play a guitar, the Spanish guitar player in the orchestra is spotlighted. Then we have the entrance of Figaro, sung by Pietro Spagnoli. Figaro is sometimes played as a bit of a clown but not in this production. He is a very dapper barber in his white waistcoat with black spots. Normally Figaro has the stage to himself when he addresses the audience but in this production, when he sings his "Largo al factotum", he is in a street bustling with people. He even cuts someones hair while he is singing. This is so obvious and natural that I wonder why I have never seen it done before. The idea of having an audience for the big solo numbers is repeated for Don Basilio's aria "La Calumnia" and also during Rosina's music lesson.

I was smitten by Maria Bayo's Rosina. She has a beautiful and very distinctive voice with a little girl timbre but an operatic volume. Her Italian has a charming Spanish accent which seems entirely appropriate. Bruno Praticò as Doctor Bartolo is good fun because he is younger and more repulsive than usual. There is a lot of comic business in this opera and it can sometimes be tedious but not in this production. All the stuff about letters and laundry lists, drunken soldiers and fake music teachers is carried off brilliantly. My only disappointment was the Act I finale, which should be the highlight of the opera. It was too complicated with a platoon of soldiers descending into the orchestra and then reappearing from trapdoors, detracting from the brilliance of Rossini's writing at this point.

Suddenly after three black and white hours, in the final scene, everything bursts into hilarious colour with violently clashing pink, red and crimson costumes. At this point Juan Diego Florèz springs a surprise: he performs the aria that is usually dropped from Il Barbiere that we now all know as the soprano tour de force from the end of La Cenerentola. Not surprisingly the Madrid audience goes wild. I loved it even though I felt slightly disconcerted hearing it sung by a tenor.

This production could not be bettered either visually, musically or dramatically. It restores my faith in a tired old warhorse. It must have been just as exciting as this on the first night in Rome in 1816
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on 11 September 2007
Quite one of the best versions of this opera I have seen.
From the ingenious and beautiful sets and costumes to the very best singing this performance is a joy to the ears and the eyes.
Florez continues to grow in stage craft and his voice matures delightfully.
The lovely light voice of Maria Bayo is also a wonder to hear.
Altogether a performance to savour.
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This production of The Barber of Seville from 2005 was made at Madrid's Teatro Real which seems particularly appropriate for an opera set in Spain. There is, throughout this performance, a very Spanish variety of energy with background characters moving about with references to Spanish dance movements and postures which also feature strongly at the conclusion of the opera.

The setting is very stylish and strikingly clean-cut with much use made of black and white colour schemes. Stage sets are moved in full view of the audience and are moved in such a way as to become part of the performance. The period is not precise but has an 18th century aura about it but seen very much through a stylised modern viewpoint. I found this to be very effective. The predominantly black and white colour scheme changes dramatically at the end with a festive burst of colour which adds significantly to the celebratory feel of the finale complete with .

The cast are uniformly excellent with a strong sense of fun being created. This is apparent between Figaro and Almaviva, between Figaro and Rosina and also extends to individual roles such as Bartolo, Don Basilio and the maid Berta who also sings her aria in act 3 especially well. Florez is very much billed as the star of this production and he is on very good form vocally and clearly enjoys his role in this production. A surprise addition is his extended final aria, normally heard at the end of Cinderella, which brings to tumultuous applause. However, he by no means otherwise outshines Pietro Spagnoli as Figaro who comes over as a particularly strong characterisation. He is also a particularly good singer who easily copes with the range and the speed of the vocal challenges. I would go so far as to suggest that this is one of the best musical performances of this role that I have yet seen.

Maria Bayo makes a fine Rosina with secure vocal technique and a good dramatic sense. She is also young enough and attractive enough for her to be believably attractive to Count Almaviva. Too often the singers chosen for this role are unlikely to appeal in these ways and therefore undermine the necessary suspension of disbelief for the story to work dramatically. Bartolo, in this performance, is more youthfully vigorous than in some performances which portray him as far past his prime. The role here is portrayed as more blustering and lightweight so his acceptance of rejection at the conclusion comes as no surprise to either him or the audience. Don Basilio, performed by Ruggero Raimondi, is a reliable portrayal and the signature `scandal' aria in act 1 comes over well.

The chorus support the main character parts with good singing and characterisation and the orchestra play well under the attentive guidance of the conductor, Gianluigi Gelmetti.

The camera work and imaging quality are of a high standard as is the sound reproduction. The sound is presented in DTS 5.0 and stereo and is of good range and fidelity.

The is a 16 minute bonus film which takes a look backstage and a full-length documentary, `The Useless Precaution', during which the cast and the director provide a detailed introduction to the opera. This is well-worth watching and offers far more depth than is often the case.

Overall this can be described as a particularly stylish production with first class musical values couples with a strong forward momentum and strong dramatic characterisations. There is a winning sense of fun maintained throughout and the whole was much appreciated by the audience. For these reasons I would expect most purchasers of this disc to share that enjoyment and to find this a very good production and performance. A 5 star rating seems appropriate therefore.
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on 7 December 2008
Have a look at the 19 reviews of the non blu ray version on Amazon.com. I won't repeat them. This blu ray shows off HD to briliant effect. The costumes, the set and the design produce an effect which dazzles the eye. A truly world class performance from Juan Diego Flores alone makes this a worthy addition to your collection. It can be nitpicked but if you are building a blu ray collection, include this to show it off.
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I strongly disagree with the two reviewers who downgraded this production to less than five stars largely because of the directing of Angel Louis Ramirez, which I thought enhanced the production in that it intertwined the visual with the acoustics in a delightfully entertaining manner. And for goodness sake, what is wrong with the principles singing from near-acrobatic stances? After all, isn't The Barber of Seville, a very bouncy, skippy style of opera? Ramirez is to be congratulated for realising this through his brilliant and orginal stage direction, which very much adds to the enjoyment of this delightful production.

As one might expect, Juan Diego Florez as Il Comte d'Almaviva and Mario Bayo as Rosina were both outstanding, but so were all the singers. Since so much is always expected of the actor who sings Figaro it's all too easy to find fault with anyone who plays this roll. Pietro Spagnoli did it his way and he was firstrate. For me, Susana Cordon's portrayal of Berta was the highlight of a scintillating performance imaginatively directed by Angel Louis Ramirez and I shall never tire of watching it.
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This production of The Barber of Seville from 2005 was made at Madrid's Teatro Real which seems particularly appropriate for an opera set in Spain. There is, throughout this performance, a very Spanish variety of energy with background characters moving about with references to Spanish dance movements and postures which also feature strongly at the conclusion of the opera.

The setting is very stylish and strikingly clean-cut with much use made of black and white colour schemes. Stage sets are moved in full view of the audience and are moved in such a way as to become part of the performance. The period is not precise but has an 18th century aura about it but seen very much through a stylised modern viewpoint. I found this to be very effective. The predominantly black and white colour scheme changes dramatically at the end with a festive burst of colour which adds significantly to the celebratory feel of the finale complete with .

The cast are uniformly excellent with a strong sense of fun being created. This is apparent between Figaro and Almaviva, between Figaro and Rosina and also extends to individual roles such as Bartolo, Don Basilio and the maid Berta who also sings her aria in act 3 especially well. Florez is very much billed as the star of this production and he is on very good form vocally and clearly enjoys his role in this production. A surprise addition is his extended final aria, normally heard at the end of Cinderella, which brings to tumultuous applause. However, he by no means otherwise outshines Pietro Spagnoli as Figaro who comes over as a particularly strong characterisation. He is also a particularly good singer who easily copes with the range and the speed of the vocal challenges. I would go so far as to suggest that this is one of the best musical performances of this role that I have yet seen.

Maria Bayo makes a fine Rosina with secure vocal technique and a good dramatic sense. She is also young enough and attractive enough for her to be believably attractive to Count Almaviva. Too often the singers chosen for this role are unlikely to appeal in these ways and therefore undermine the necessary suspension of disbelief for the story to work dramatically. Bartolo, in this performance, is more youthfully vigorous than in some performances which portray him as far past his prime. The role here is portrayed as more blustering and lightweight so his acceptance of rejection at the conclusion comes as no surprise to either him or the audience. Don Basilio, performed by Ruggero Raimondi, is a reliable portrayal and the signature `scandal' aria in act 1 comes over well.

The chorus support the main character parts with good singing and characterisation and the orchestra play well under the attentive guidance of the conductor, Gianluigi Gelmetti.

The camera work and imaging quality are of a high standard as is the sound reproduction. The sound is presented in DTS 5.0 and stereo and is of good range and fidelity.

The is a 16 minute bonus film which takes a look backstage and a full-length documentary, `The Useless Precaution', during which the cast and the director provide a detailed introduction to the opera. This is well-worth watching and offers far more depth than is often the case.

Overall this can be described as a particularly stylish production with first class musical values couples with a strong forward momentum and strong dramatic characterisations. There is a winning sense of fun maintained throughout and the whole was much appreciated by the audience. For these reasons I would expect most purchasers of this disc to share that enjoyment and to find this a very good production and performance. A 5 star rating seems appropriate therefore.
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on 1 November 2007
First saw this version a couple of years ago,until then was not sure about Florez who was brilliant. Since this have waited for each new opera Diego is in and each one get's better and better.

The man is a GOD!
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on 8 October 2008
They don't come much better than this. A delight from start to finish; and I would hardly call myself a fan of this opera - well, not until I saw this version.

Buy it.
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on 22 September 2007
I adore this opera and have many different versions of it all of which are very good.

I specially adore Cecilia Bartoli and she plays Rosina in other productions with a unique genius ... bus sadly she is not in this one!!!

However the conception, sets, acting (especially background) and othjer singers almost compensate for this.

I love the way everything starts in STUNNING black and white from the costumes to the stunningly beautiful sets (which in themselves are stars of the production ...absolute genius!!) and after the storm interlude colour creeps in till at the end everything is just a glorious rainbow.

It is full of wit, charm and above all the singing is excellent despite Cicilia's absence!!!

Treat yourself to it you will never regret it and I bet it will become your all time favourite Barber!!!
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on 12 December 2009
IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA

We will celebrate pretty soon the end of this year: life has been quite difficult for everybody . If you want to make a lovely present full of joy and fun allowing to forget his or her troubles -specially if your friend is a music lover- give this Spanish Barbiere as a present. It will be welcomed!

Rossini's famous "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" played by The Madrid Symphonic Orchestra in "El Teatro Real de Madrid" is the same popular old and beloved Italian Opera but with the addition of delightful vitality, color, novelty and fun. This one is a film, with production from Opus Arte during 2005 and showed today, creating quickly a real fashion, also because it is presenting Juan Diego Florèz the wonderful new tenor (opinion shared by the Opera magazine and critics)now a star in an amount of operas.
It also includes important theatrical elements in which artists are not only singing but acting and moving around quite permanently with the same rhythm as scenes and color changes: they sing, but also act in a dynamic and modern way. Scenes are conceived separately and differ from each other by extra artists displacing walls and furniture in an also new conception, while colors of scenery as well as dresses change from gloomy-elegant black and grey in the first act scenes to a brilliant multicolor display at the end. Some magic sense and some foolishness are added here and there, increasing the spell.

In the first part, Figaro (Pietro Spagnoli) is the hero and Rosina (Maria Bayo) is introduced, after the new tenor Conte Almaviva (Florèz) sings his Love serenade. She is a first class soprano on the style of the tradition of the three great Spanish sopranos. In Figaro's plan to introduce the count to Rosina's house thanks to different masks and fancy dresses, the count plays first the drunken soldier. There we meet Don Bartolo (Bruno Practicò) Rosina's tutor and Don Basilio the singing teacher (A renowed Ruggero Raimondi in his splendor of Italian great singers, at home in Il Barbiere and in La Calunnia-the slander) We start to admire the tenor's playing like a child and acting, and become a very funny show during his second mask as a priest and music teacher.

So in part2 the lesson of music scores the comic hit .The tutor dances to what he calls real music and Figaro joins him. A little bit of foolishness , a lovely play, while Rosina and Almaviva start meeting each other almost kissing : an extremely romantic couple. Very intelligent the director, to have enriched an old opera spirit with this, a very new interesting and amusing play- Like the 1700 writter, Beaumarchais, here we follow the ideals of freedom, need to change and introduce a new world, the Triumph of love (Remember Mozart `s Figaro). Maria Bayo sings beautifully a dramatic aria in a moment she thinks he is joking with her: some remembrance of Dorabella. Rossini adored Mozart .

In the last part, colors have changed to radiant ones. Our couple gets married, a big party starts, soldiers arrived from nowhere to offer a flower each to the bride and Juan Diego Florèz starts singing a beautiful long aria with such an effort and such a wonderful and exceptional voice to merit an endless applause from the public. The opera ends in a great tutti, everybody very happily singing together.

Little brilliant stars in the black sky and a big red ball hanging, supposed to be a balloon where the lovers are allowed to run away from the world. But a balloon always go down after a while. . . . .is commented somewhere in the second record.

Remember it can be a perfect happy present! A real pleasure.
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