ROF is Back and in Good Spirits

GIUSEPPE PENNISI reports on 'Il barbiere di Siviglia' and the Rossini Opera Festival's current performances


Last summer, the Rossini Opera Festival (ROF) had to be curtailed due to the pandemic, as discussed here on 8 August 2020. In the expectation that the virus would be under control, the Festival organized a late Fall session for November. As the pandemic stroke back, the Festival decided to hold the November session regardless, with the performances made available to everybody in the world free through streaming on the web site www.rossinioperafestival.it as well as on YouTube and on the ROF Facebook page. These are not recordings of previous productions but live performances.

The program is quite various. It started on 14 November with a selection of the Péchés de vieillesse (Sins of old age) performed by the pianist Alessandro Marangoni. On 15 November there was a real rarity: a double bill including the Messa di Milano and Miserere, conducted by Ferdinando Sulla with the Filarmonica Gioachino Rossini and the chorus of Fano's Teatro della Fortuna. On 26 and 28 November, there's the now classic production of Il Viaggio a Reims, conceived by Emilio Sagi some thirty years ago. It is performed every summer. This November the production is taken up by Matteo Anselmi, with Alessandro Cadario conducting the Rossini Symphony Orchestra and a singing company formed by the students of the Accademia Rossiniana 'Alberto Zedda' 2020 and some former students of the past courses.

On Friday 27 November at 8pm and Sunday 29 November 2020 at 5pm, the ROF stages Il barbiere di Siviglia, created by Pier Luigi Pizzi for the 2018 Festival. Michele Spotti conducts the Rossini Symphony Orchestra and Giovanni Farina the Coro del Teatro Ventidio Basso. The cast includes Juan Francisco Gatell as the Count of Almaviva, Carlo Lepore as Bartolo, Aya Wakizono as Rosina, Iurii Samoilov as Figaro, Michele Pertusi as Basilio, Elena Zilio as Berta and William Corrò in the Fiorello/Ufficiale role.

The Pier Luigi Pizzi production was reviewed in Music & Vision Magazine on 21 August 2018. This is a new staging, even though the stage direction, costumes and sets are always by Pier Luigi Pizzi, now ninety years old, with Massimo Gasparon as his aide. The theatre is different: in 2018, Il barbiere was performed in the 2,200 seat Arena and now in the 700 seat eighteenth century Teatro Rosssini. The conductor and the orchestra are different: in 2018, Yves Abel conducted the RAI Symphony Orchestra. Half of the cast is different. In short, the very successful 2018 production was not just restaged but revamped to fit a different theatre, a new conductor and orchestra and new principals in the singing cast.

The Teatro Rossini is about the same size as the Teatro Argentina in Rome where Il barbiere had its debut in 1816. The sets of the 2018 production had to be downsized but the atmosphere was more cozy and the action flew more smoothly than in August 2018. Young Michele Spotti conducted the orchestra swiftly with brio, whilst Yves Abel emphasized elegance. All in all, the performance lasts ten minutes less than in 2018 when with intermission, it required three and a half hours. It gains a more comic approach whilst keeping the main concept of am early nineteenth century bourgeois comedy.

Michele Spotti
Michele Spotti

The Argentinian Juan Francisco Gatell, now in his forties, maintain the clear vocal ring of when he was in his mid-twenties. He was superb in the impervious final aria 'Cessa di più resistere'. I personally need to make an apology for criticizing him for not singing it at a performance in Palermo in 2006; later, I was advised that the aria had been cut at the request of the stage director who thought that it slowed the action.

Baritone Iurii Samoilov is a splendid Figaro, both vocally and theatrically. He is young and quite attractive. He knows it; in the entry aria, he takes off his jacket and his shirt to show his bare chest and his muscles. Also, he jumps up and down while singing acrobatic tunes.

Iurii Samoilov as Figaro in the Rossini Opera Festival's 'Il barbiere di Siviglia'
Iurii Samoilov as Figaro in the Rossini Opera Festival's Il barbiere di Siviglia

Carlo Lepore is a very experienced Bartolo. As for Aya Wakizono, Michele Pertusi and Elena Zilio, I cannot but repeat the complimentary comments I made in 2018.

Carlo Lepore as Bartolo and Michele Pertusi as Basilio in the Rossini Opera Festival's 'Il barbiere di Siviglia'
Carlo Lepore as Bartolo and Michele Pertusi as Basilio in the Rossini Opera Festival's Il barbiere di Siviglia

So, rush to your computer to connect to this very live Il barbiere.

Copyright © 26 November 2020 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy







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