A beautiful lady, two suitors and a town barber who misses nothing – what could possibly go wrong? Plenty, it seems, as Monte-Carlo Opera presents Gioachino Rossini’s hugely popular Il barbiere di Siviglia.
This production by Salzburg Festival, starring Monte-Carlo Opera Director Cecilia Bartoli, is staged by Rolando Villazón.
Il barbiere di Siviglia is a two-act melodrama buffo with an Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini. It was based on Pierre Beaumarchais’s 1775 comedy Le Barbier de Séville, although the opera is closer in style to the traditional commedia dell’arte than to the French play from which it takes its inspiration. Il barbiere di Siviglia premiered on February 20, 1816, at the Teatro Argentina in Rome.
The story tells of the beautiful Rosina, the ward of Dr Bartolo, and the two suitors who desire her hand in marriage – Count Almaviva and Bartolo himself. Rosina has already fallen for the Count, following his serenade to her, and the town barber, Figaro – who knows everyone’s secrets and scandals – sees an opportunity to make some money from Almaviva by hatching a plan for the Count to gain access to Bartolo’s house. The twists and turns of the plot are enough to confuse anyone, but carried along by some of the most popular music in the operatic repertoire, this wonderfully entertaining and enjoyable opera reaches its denouement with Almaviva and Rosina celebrating their marriage, Bartolo’s acceptance of defeat (for which he’s rewarded with Rosina’s dowry), and Figaro pocketing, of course, a handsome payment from the Count.
Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli – who sings Rosina – is regarded as one of the world’s leading classical music artists. Over her 30-year career, her awards include Honorary doctorates, five Grammy Awards, more than a dozen ECHO Klassik and BRIT awards, the Polar Music Prize, the Léonie Sonning Music Prize and the Herbert von Karajan Music Prize. Ms Bartoli has appeared in major opera houses, concert venues and festivals throughout North America, Europe, the Far East and Australia, has made numerous successful recordings, and created spectacular stage events, films and multimedia events. She has served as artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival since 2012, and also founded her period-instrument orchestra Les Musicians du Prince-Monaco in 2016, with the patronage of HSH Prince Albert II and HRH Caroline the Princess of Hanover.
Highly versatile Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón – is described by The Times as “the most charming of today’s divos” – and is said by Süddeutsche Zeitung to have “a wonderfully virile voice…grandezza, elegance and power”. Not only one of today’s most successful tenors, director Villazón is also a novelist, artistic director and radio and TV personality. He has appeared on the stages of the State Operas of Berlin, Munich and Vienna, La Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, the Salzburg Festival, the Barbican Hall, the Philharmonic Accademia Santa Cecilia and Carnegie Hall. Rolando Villazón has directed for the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf, the Vienna Volksoper, the Semperoper in Dresden and the Théatre des Champs-Elysées. His most recent success was this production of Il barbiere di Siviglia at the 2022 Salzburg Festival, with a cast led by Cecilia Bartoli, which received both critical and public acclaim.
Uruguayan tenor Edgardo Rocha – who takes the role of Count Almaviva – is well known for his bel canto repertoire and regarded as one of its best exponents, with particular emphasis on roles in Rossini operas. These include performances as Jago and Rodrigo in Otello, Belfiore and Libenskof in ll Viaggio a Reims, Alberto in La Gazetta, the title role in Le Comte Ory, Giannetto in La Gazza ladra, Giacomo V in La Donna del Lago and Don Ramiro in the 2012 film La Cenerentola which was broadcast live by Mundovision. Mr Rocha has also appeared as Nazir in Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs des perles, Arturo in Bellini’s I Puritani, Leopold in Halevy’s La Juive, Ernesto in Peer’s Agnese and Riccardo Percy in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena. His appearances include performances at the Opernhaus Zürich, the Teatro des Champs-Élyseés, Teatro alla Scala, Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Liège, the Teatro Regio di Torino, Semperoper in Dresden, the Bolshoi Theatre, Opéra de Marseille, Opéra de Lausanne and the Salzburg Pfingstfestpiele.
The role of Bartolo is taken by baritone Alessandro Corbelli who has performed numerous roles in opera houses such as Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Opéra de Paris, Staatsoper de Vienne, the Metropolitan Opera and Glyndebourne. He has also appeared in Munich, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, at the Salzburg Festival and the Rossini Festival in Pesaro. Most recently, Mr Corbelli has performed as Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola at the Opernhuis in Zurich and as the Marchese Don Giulio Antiquati in Donizetti’s L’ajo nell’imbarazzo in Bergamo. Following his appearance in Monte-Carlo, he will reprise the role of Don Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Salzburg Festival and at the Arena di Verona Opera Festival, and later this year will appear as Sulpice in Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment at Lyric Opera Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera, Wiener Staatsoper and the Royal Opera House.
Figaro, the barber who knows more about the town than anyone else, is sung by baritone Nicola Alaimo who has appeared in many of the world’s most prestigious opera houses and concert halls. These include the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, the Teatro Regio in Turin, La Monnaie, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Rome Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Teatro Real in Madrid and Berlin’s Deutsche Oper. Mr Alaimo’s recent roles include those of Dandini in La Cenerentola at the Opernhuis Zurich, the title role in Verdi’s Falstaff in Tokyo and Far Melitone in Verdi’s La forza del destino at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona and at the Opéra National de Paris. Future roles include those of Murena in Donizetti’s L’esule di Roma with Opera Rara in London, title role in Verdi’s Nabucco in Luxembourg, Teatro Maestranza in Seville and Geneva, he will reprise the role of Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Arena di Verona Opera Festival and will sing Taddeo in Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri.
Don Basilio, Rosina’s scheming music teacher, is sung by bass Ildar Abdrazakov, described by The Independent as a “sensational bass … who has just about everything – imposing sound, beautiful legato, oodles of finesse”. A regular guest of the world’s leading opera houses, such as the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Paris National Opera, the Vienna State Opera and Munich’s Bavarian State Opera, Mr Abdrazakov has performed with almost every major opera company in the United States and Europe. He is also an active concert artist who has performed at London’s BBC Proms and at New York’s Carnegie Hall, as well as with leading international orchestras. Recent and current appearances include the title role in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov at the Bolshoi Theatre and at Teatro alla Scala, as Filippo II in Verdi’s Don Carlo at Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich and at the Bolshoi Theatre, and as Mephistopheles in La Damnation de Faust at Teatro di San Carlo in Naples.
Also in the cast are Rebeca Olvera as Berta, José Coca Loza as Fiorello and Arturo Brachetti as Arnoldo.
Gianluca Capuano, principal conductor of Les Musiciens du Prince – Monaco, leads the ensemble and the Chorus of the Monte-Carlo Opera (director Stefano Visconti) in four performances of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia from 16th to 22nd April. Performances take place at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo.
Lead image courtesy Opéra de Monte-Carlo