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Il barbiere di Siviglia [Blu-ray] [2012] [Region Free]
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 March 2012
You might detect the influence of Mozart on Rossini in The Barber of Seville. Most obviously, it shares several of the same characters who appear in The Marriage of Figaro, both works originally written by Beaumarchais, but the similarity is evident in the use of recitative, the ensemble finales, the type of humour in the farcical situations, but principally, it's the manner in which Rossini approaches the material with a similar sense of dazzling inventiveness and virtuoso touches that would come to define bel canto. It was Paisiello however, more than Mozart or Beaumarchais, who would have been foremost in the mind of the composer, since Paisiello's Il Barbiere di Siviglia had already proven to be a success and was still hugely popular at the time that Rossini decided to tackle the subject, believing that he could do much more with the work than the old-fashioned, outdated, conservative style of the original version. When asked if Rossini had indeed written the whole of The Barber of Seville in 13 days, Donizetti is reported to have replied, "It is very possible, he is so lazy".

There reason I think it's worth mentioning some of the background around the composition of the opera (which caused some fuss on its premiere in Rome in 1816, partly due to favouritism for Paisiello's work and partly due to some attempts by supporters of Paisiello to actually sabotage its reception), is that this spirit of inventiveness, irreverence and simply just dashing it off in an off-handedly brilliant fashion is crucial to the tone of the work. It's the same spirit that fires the youthful enthusiasm of Figaro, of Rosina and even of Almaviva and sets them in opposition to the old guard of Doctor Bartolo and Don Basilio (although little remains of the pointed barbs of Beaumarchais revolutionary satire). Even if you are unaware of its background, you should really get a sense of this from any production of the work itself, which is why ultimately it's a little disappointing that this production recorded at the Teatro Regio di Parma in 2011 - otherwise competently produced and very well performed - couldn't be a bit more lively.

On the positive side, while the stage setting itself initially isn't much to look at, it's actually quite inventive, with some appropriately imaginative touches to allow the work to flow through each of the two acts. So while in Act I, Doctor Bartolo's house looks like a cardboard cut-out, with there being little sense of realism in the location of it actually being in street, much less a street in Seville, there is at least a balcony for Rosina, and some attempt at period costume, and really that's all that is necessary for the opening scene. The cleverness of the set is revealed in the subsequent scene when it opens up to reveal the interior of the house - again, quite simply - but through a few smart devices including a mountain of books, and through the colouration and lighting, it captures that sense of improvised brilliance, as well as being functional for the vital flow of the work and its humorous situations.

While the set is well-equipped to handle the flow and spirit of the work, the stage direction of the performers and the situations is however rather lacking in fire, personality and, sadly, in any real sense of humour. It all feels rather flat. The orchestra of Parma are fine under the young 23 year old conductor Andrea Battistoni, giving a vigorous account of the overture, and the performance of the score throughout is excellent, but after a while it also seems to just drag along with the lifeless stage direction. It's no fault either of the singers, who are mostly wonderful. Ketevan Kemoklidze's Rosina in particular is superb, with a sparkling vitality in voice and character, but Luca Salsi's Figaro and Bruno Praticò's Bartolo also rise to the challenging and invigorating cavatinas and cabalettas of the work. Dmitry Korchak, while he has a pleasant musical tone of voice (much like his performance in the Pesaro La Gazza Ladra) unfortunately doesn't have sufficient force, range or personality to carry off Count Almaviva.

All in all however, this is a reasonably good production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia. It looks good, it's well-sung and well-performed, only lacking a spark of imagination in the direction, pacing and humour that really ought to be there to set this dazzling and entertaining work off. Image quality on the Blu-ray release from Arthaus is excellent, the image beautifully clear even in darkened areas of the stage, and there are strong HD sound mixes in PCM Stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1. Other than Trailers for other releases, there are no extra features on the disc. The Blu-ray is BD50, 16:9, 1080i full HD. Subtitles are in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese and Korean.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 November 2012
I bought this blu ray disc primarily for two reasons. One, this is a Parma production which means that it is quality assured in performance and singing... The other being that on a blu ray, I wanted to see a pretty and competent Rosina who does not make grotesque faces while singing (unlike the other blu ray disc with Maria Bayo and Florez that I bought and reviewed first).

I was totally satisfied on both counts.

Now, this is an opera that has been produced for the video umpteen number of times and I have umpteen videos of. Although it is exceedingly well sung, beautifully conducted by Andrea Battistoni (a young guy who I am sure we will hear more of) and almost perfect in most other respects of live performance, I found that as a whole, the sets, although innovative, lacked the presence to really excite or impress. The stage direction could have been a little racier and lend more life to the Opera. Here it is just perfect singing, performance and entries....with little else to recommend it as a visual treat, especially when one compares it with other older productions, too many to name.

After all, Opera is also a visual experience, and lack of the above attributes has made it overall, rather lacking in the total satisfaction of watching a Rossini Opera in spite of many things going great guns for it.
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