Il Barbiere di Seviglia/Glyndebourne
It’s always difficult to assess with Glyndebourne whether the patrons go for the occasion or for the opera. Certainly the operas have high production values – and ticket prices- and the organisation is efficient but you do feel you are there for picknicking in black tie in the lovely grounds as a part of the Summer Season. Last night I went to to see Rossini’s popular opera The Barber of Seville. Bjorn Burger played Figaro, Danielle di Niese Rosina and Enrique Mazzola conducted the London Philharmonic with aplomb. Directed by Anne Arden the sets were as ever visually enthralling. I always enjoy the programme even if it costs 20 pounds. This year’s artist Raqil Shaw featured Midsummer Night Dream and at the centre of his picture on the programme cover were two fairies clearly buggering each other which with the liberal profusion of sexual imagery were all a bit daring for this audience.
We arrived at 4pm and the place looked fabulous. We drank a glass of champagne by the lake surrounded by picknickers who seem to compete in the quality of their chairs, table and cutlery although by the long interval at 7-15 I bet they were feeling the cold. One hour in the sun by the lake was enough for me.
Over the years I’ve been going to Glyndebourne the quality of the acting has improved. This seems to me an area which needed to. Of course you will hear quality singing from the finest tenors, sopranos and baritones but often the acting could be wooden. Here the singers entered into their roles with great gusto.
Bjorn Burger had an impressive voice but I’ve always visualised the busy body Figaro as plump and Italiaate. His Figaro was so tall and athletic he might have been the keeper of Borussia Dortmund. He delivered the celebrated first aria of Figaro with great elan. It’s not easy to sing at such a quick tempo and it’s so famous you are going to invite comparison. Danielle di Niese was a seductive Rosina. You can understand why Count Almaviva and di Bartolo, whose ward she is, were so fixated by her as she was so slender and winsome. The music teacher (Christopholos Stamboglis) too had the self-importance of a buffoon. This is more light opera, opera buffa, and the audience were ready to respond with laughter.
As form of entertainment people either love or leave opera. For some they are almost obsessive and the opera bore can be the worst of all. For others the absence of anything new and the retreads of the regulars in a different language make for an expensive evening out they are happy to avoid. I sit somewhere between the two. I do my prep: I will listen to the libretto in advance and acquaint myself with the story. However 4 visits a year is quite enough for me and my wallet: decent seats, meal for two, transportation will not give you much change from a grand. The fusion of acting and music in opera can he heady but so can a musical. No less than an authority than David Mellor opined that if Rossini, Puccini or Verdi were around today they would be writing popular musicals not opera as there is greater demand. I saw no one under 50 at Glyndebourne but it’s still hard to get a ticket and its commercial future seems guaranteed.