Rossini, Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Ageless production of the Rossini’s Barber of Seville at the Staatsoper tonight. Well, not completely ageless. It will be 46 years old this April. But it was produced back in the day when there were still some German directors who understood opera and theater. The long-departed Günther Rennert (died in 1978), who at the time was the director at the Bavarian State Opera did this guest production in Vienna in 1966, and used a simple concept. The entire action took place without a set change – he constructed Don Bartolo’s house in such a way as to allow walls to retract so that the audience could see inside one or more rooms where the action took place. Some action took place in – or spilled into – the courtyard. Rennert put the music foremost – but this opera represented Rossini at his most consistently tuneful and whimsical. So the music drove the farcical plot, which Rennert added to with a dash of slapstick and other sight-gags.
Over the years, an entire array of Vienna casts have had the chance to put on this production, so it can remain constantly fresh. Looking at the faces of the cast, they enjoyed themselves immensely, which very much helped. Vienna ensemble singers made up tonight’s group, maintaining the standards that make the House on the Ring the best on the planet even for casts without particular stars. Adrian Eröd (Figaro), Isabel Leonard(Rosina), and Juan Francisco Gatell (Almaviva) made up a youthful front-line trio, ably supported by Alfred Šramek (Bartolo), Michele Pertusi (Basilio), and Donna Ellen (Marzellina). Michael Güttler conducted precisely, ensuring that the orchestra not only did not overpower the singers but also allowed them to enunciate their often tongue-twisted texts – he clearly appreciated that Rossini wrote a difficult opera to sing and, furthermore, for the comedy to work in this production especially, the difficult singing must have extra clarity.