Notes and Editorial Reviews
Il barbiere di Siviglia
Gianluigi Gelmetti, cond; Juan Diego Flórez (
); María Bayo (
); Pietro Spagnoli (
); Bruno Praticò (
); Ruggero Raimondi (
); Madrid Teatro Real O & Ch
DECCA 00529509 (241:00) Live: Madrid 2005
Backstage with the Barber.” “The Useless Precaution”
The cast for this Teatro Real de Madrid production is outstanding across the board. Figaro is the glue of any successful
he moves the action ahead and the audience must look forward to his every appearance, vocally and dramatically. From the first bars of “Largo al factotum della città,” we know Pietro Spagnoli’s got the goods, with a satisfyingly solid and nimble baritone and a natural elegance to his movements on stage. Bruno Praticò is a prime
practitioner, impressively adept with the patter of Bartolo’s first act aria, his representation of the not-so-good Doctor suitably ridiculous, abetted by a Tweedledum/Tweedledee sort of costume. As Don Basilio, veteran Ruggero Raimondi exudes a perfect blend of decrepitude and cunning; if his voice is no longer as resplendent as it was 20 years ago, he still has a wonderful stage presence.
But it’s the performances of the two leads, María Bayo and Juan Diego Flórez, that take this
Il barbiere di Siviglia
from the realm of the merely excellent to the extraordinary. Bayo’s singing is pert, focused, and sexy, her appealing soprano opening up gloriously on top. She’s given an extra aria in act II (“Ah, se è ver che in tal momento,” composed for the singer Joséphine Fodor-Mainvielle several years after
was completed) and we’re glad for it. Juan Diego Flórez, of course, is unsurpassed in this repertoire. He negotiates the relentless coloratura stretches of his arias effortlessly, a smile on his face; when he completes the biggie, “Cessa di più resistere” close to the work’s end, the audience goes berserk and the action must stop for nearly a minute and a half. Flórez’s lyrical passages have a sense of unbroken line and high notes ring out powerfully, the tenor’s vocal timbre fully intact. Like everyone else involved in his production, Flórez genuinely appears to be having
The joyous act II finale feels decidedly Spanish, with dancers stamping out a syncopated rhythm, flamenco style. The Madrid Symphony Orchestra plays with flair and grace; the overture’s a real treat.
This production’s design—sets by Llorenç Corbella, costumes by Renata Schussheim—is dazzling, beginning with just black, white, grey, and some blue hues and slowly introducing elements of bright color—a flower, a red afghan. After the storm in act II, however, it’s as if everything and everyone has had an infusion of some potent fertilizer: the stage and especially the costumes are a riot of brilliant and deeply saturated color—Almaviva and Rosina in electric pink, Figaro in a blazing red suit. All of this is admirably served up by the high-definition wide-screen video.
Subtitle choices include English, French, German, Spanish, and Chinese. (One technical snafu: setting a choice for subtitles ahead of time from the menu didn’t work, though there was no problem navigating to the language of choice while the opera was playing.) The surround-sound option is 24-bit DTS HD Master Audio 5.0, which makes for superb timbral accuracy and detail. There’s one idiosyncrasy with multichannel; for some reason, the orchestra’s winds are mixed rather prominently into the rear channels. If this distracts, you can always opt for the excellent 24-bit PCM stereo program, but I stuck with the highly involving surround version.
Decca, in partnership with Opus Arte, provides two extras. One is a substantial 58-minute feature directed by Reiner E. Moritz, “The Useless Precaution,” which provides thoughtful insights into the work from the director (Emilo Sagi), conductor, and principal singers. Gianluigi Gelmetti speaks of the “revelation” of returning to
’s first edition, with different orchestrations and dynamic indications than what is traditionally heard. We learn that Juan Diego Flórez writes his own ornamentations, adding high notes and coloratura elements, which seems very much in keeping with Rossini’s time and spirit. Ruggero Raimondi’s observations about the orchestral scoring for some of Basilio’s music are particularly interesting. The second extra, “Backstage with the Barber,” is a superficial and quite dispensable look at some of the technical aspects of this production. It’s definitely a
moment when the set designer, showing us a cardboard mock-up of his design, explains in all seriousness that “This is the model, of course: the real size is much bigger.” Thanks for clarifying.
FANFARE: Andrew Quint
Works on This Recording
Il barbiere di Siviglia by Gioachino Rossini
Pietro Spagnoli (Baritone),
Maria Bayo (Soprano),
Ruggero Raimondi (Bass),
Bruno Praticò (Bass Baritone),
Marco Moncloa (Baritone),
Juan Diego Flórez (Tenor),
Susana Cordón (Soprano)
Madrid Teatro Real Orchestra,
Madrid Teatro Real Chorus
Written: 1816; Italy
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