In Martin Lyngbo’s production of Rossini’s much-loved opera, ‘Seville’ is a precinct of a town that looks a lot like 1920s New York. More specifically, it is the New York – or a street in that city — belonging to the world of silent cinema.
In this modern-dress production, the action takes place in and in front of the townhouse of Doctor Bartolo, and the physical comedy as well as the characters’ appearance and mannerisms are suggestive of early film – there’s even a barber who is a clear homage to Chaplin.
Colour in Rikke Juellund’s stage set is subdued throughout, and at times the clever lighting makes the set fade to a filmic black and white. Rather than the usual supertitles, titles appear on the townhouse’s façade – the lettering suggestive of silent movies’ intertitles.
The production works on all levels. This is one of the most humorous of well-known operas, and partly by drawing on the conventions of comedic silent movies, the production looks like and impresses as a first-rate comedy throughout.
A cast that rises to the challenge
In any production of this opera, all eyes are on how the main singers bring their characters to life.
Baritone Luthando Qave plays the barber Figaro with gusto and confidence, generating much of the humour. Soprano Anna Kasyan displays similar brio in her portrayal of Rosina. And, with his crystalline voice, tenor Ruzil Gatin does full justice to Count Almaviva.
And the other singers – Per Bach Nissen (Doctor Bartolo), Simon Duus (Basilio), Matilde Wallevik (Berta) and Joakim Larsson (Notary/Officer) – also perform extremely well.
This production includes special challenges for the singers. In comedic silent film such as that of Chaplin and Keaton, speed is often essential to the effect. If you know this opera, it quickly becomes apparent that at least at times, the production demands that everything gets speeded up.
The opera already includes arias that are difficult for singers, arias characterised by ‘coloratura’ – vocal gymnastics for virtuosi. Here, the conductor Vincenzo Milletarì explores just how far he can go beyond even that tempo, and these singers rise to the challenge.