The Barber of Seville review

Heritage Opera is approaching its tenth anniversary, and continues to entertain audiences in the North West with its own, world-class productions of classic operatic favourites.

Their latest Lancaster offering was Rossini’s much-loved comic opera of love, deception and confusion, The Barber of Seville.

This was a wonderful evening’s entertainment, replete with verbal, visual, musical and physical gags more usually associated with over-the-top knockabout farce and slapstick.

That is exactly what the twenty-three year old composer and his librettist intended.

Director Sarah Helbsy Hughes gave us a pert, pacey translation and flexible staging with some wicked gags, corny scenery (a plastic gnome?!) and witty puppetry.

Musical Director Benjamin Cox was equally alert to the sharp musical witticisms (‘I don’t like the New Music’), and along with some really outrageous and camp acting, the result was a riotous, uproarious two and a half hours.

If you think that all this was cheap, you should have heard the singing.

Using young students as well as more mature professionals accustomed to international opera houses, the result was a beautifully balanced, musical and dramatic tour-de-force of first-rate solo, chorus and ensemble singing.

I saw Rossini’s later melodrama, The Lady of the Lake, broadcast live from Covent Garden earlier in the week; the artistry, intimacy and clarity of the Barber team far outshone the expensive, Royal Opera House’s overstaged production by miles.

The production was staged at The Grand Theatre in Lancaster on Friday May 31 at 7.30pm.

Michael Nunn