ENGLISH Touring Opera's production of Rossini's The Barber Of Seville reached Perth at the weekend, where I saw it on Saturday. Without question it's the best production this wee company has brought to Perth since the relationship was established.
It's a strong synthesis of production, direction, design and performance, taking its lead from Rossini's music and never wavering. There was no messing about, nothing tricksy or interventionist in the setting: it was a straight-down-the-line, idiomatic and very funny presentation of a great comic opera. I'll never forget the sight of a hysterical Doctor Bartolo hurling abuse at Rosina in his surgery while her eyes flamed with fury and he "tended" wounded soldiers while waving a hacksaw about.
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Rhys Jarman's superb design, a backdrop of storm clouds gathering over Seville, was highly effective while Thomas Guthrie's busy but uncluttered direction was packed with felicitous touches that kept music and wit flowing. All of this was blessed with a superb cast: real singers, real character performers, real actors who understood exactly how far to milk the wit.
Tenor Nicholas Sharratt revelled in the multiplicity of his personae as Almaviva, Lindoro and "Alfonso". I've never seen a better pairing of the crusty dolts Bartolo and Basilio than that of Andrew Slater and Alan Fairs, and Cozmin Sime's Figaro was not too overblown. In among all these jewels was a gem: the spectacular 2011 Ferrier Award-winning mezzo, Kitty Whately, whose performance as Rosina was vocally thrilling and dramatically electric.