Tag: Jose Carbo

Review: The Barber Of Seville

Just as enjoyable two centuries on

By Owen James

For two performances only this December, Victorian Opera have brought one of the most famous operas to life at the Melbourne Recital Centre – The Barber Of Seville. Now over 200 years old, Rossini’s comedy begins when affluent Count Almaviva disguises himself as poor student Lindoro to charm Rosina, ward of villainous Doctor Bartolo. The Barber Of Seville himself, Figaro, helps Almaviva to woo and rescue Rosina in exchange for fiscal reward.

Direction from Elizabeth Hill-Cooper ensures the limited stage space (what remains in front of the orchestra) is used effectively, with action constant but never cluttered. This is billed as a “semi-staged concert”, so movement remains simple for the most part, allowing us to become fully immersed in Rossini’s timeless music. English surtitles are projected above the stage, in time with the often rapid-fire original Italian lyrics.

Experiencing this score played to perfection by a full orchestra is an incomparable experience. The unmistakable overture is a journey of its own (arguably the finest overture ever composed), followed by soaring arias and grand motifs that heighten the simple comedic, romantic themes to an epic scale. Musical director Richard Mills has allowed Rossini’s music to both breathe and maintain pace. No note is ever out of place thanks to his keen conducting and Orchestra Victoria, who obviously adore playing through this classic (and are balanced naturally thanks to the beautiful acoustics of the Recital Centre – no vocal mics are needed and not a note is lost!). Thunder sheets are used to great dramatic effect by the percussion section during a chaotic second act downpour.

José Carbó as the suave titular barber Figaro is a delight at every turn. His voice carries every delicate inflection and grandiose flourish with ease, eliciting many a “bravo!” from captivated audience members. Brenton Spiteri delivers an impressive vocal performance as Count Almaviva, effortlessly mining endless texture and beauty from every note of Rossini’s often difficult score. The pair are almost always together throughout their scheming, a witty, sharp duo that keep us enthralled and giggling with bursts of crafty commedia dell’arte as each romantic attempt is foiled.

Warwick Fyfe is the menacing villain Doctor Bartolo, sternly commanding the stage with an austere but ruffled presence. Whether barking reprimands or being undermined by gleeful Almaviva, Fyfe expertly plays the straight man at every turn (even when adorned with a beard of real shaving cream). Rosina’s cheeky and brave spirit is captured by Chiara Amarù, proving that there is a lot more to this ward than a mere damsel in distress. Amarù’s vocals are mesmerising throughout, her classical soprano tones drifting seamlessly across difficult arias. Paolo Pecchioli, man of a million faces, completes the key pieces of this comic puzzle as greedy Don Basilio, an audience favourite with every rubberfaced appearance.

Congratulations to Victorian Opera for a superb rendition of this musical and vocal rollercoaster, a tremendous feat accomplished with superb casting that undeniably deserves a much longer season!

https://www.victorianopera.com.au/season/the-barber-of-seville

Photography by Nick Hanson

Victorian Opera’s LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR

Blood, tears and glorious music

By Bradley Storer

Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti’s classic bel canto tragedy made famous by our Dame Joan Sutherland, is brought to the stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre by Victorian Opera, this star-vehicle appropriately lead by international star Jessica Pratt in the title role of Lucia.

Victorian Opera 2016 - Lucia di Lammermoor © Jeff Busby.jpg

Despite Henry Bardon’s wonderfully atmospheric and decrepit set (whose variations remain a highlight throughout the evening), the opening scene was very statically and somewhat muddily directed. The male chorus lacked strong direction or intention, but held together under the performances of José Carbó as Enrico Ashton and Jud Arthur as Raimondo. Lucia’s entrance in the next scene, amongst a well-timed eerie burst of onstage fog, was more effectively staged, drawing gasps from the audience.

Pratt is clearly comfortable and confident in the role of Lucia, capably navigating the dramatic arc of Lucia’s journey from innocent love-struck girl to her doomed fate, with a sweet and agile soprano that even in the harsh acoustics of Her Majesty’s could be heard in every corner of the theatre. Her acting choices can be a little odd at times – Pratt beams intermittently through her first aria, the ghostly and ill-omened ‘Regnava Nel Silenzio’, which is a little at ends with the dramatic situation (but feels more appropriate in the following cabaletta ‘Quando Rapito’). At times she can feel a little too controlled, never relaxing fully into the role until the famous and vocally-Olympian mad scene, ‘Il Dolce Suono’, where her soft but intense singing touches the heart even as her coloratura thrills.

Carlos E. Bárcenas as her lover Edgardo has a magnificent tenor voice, at points taking notes higher than even the score indicates to astounding effect. Dramatically though he seems lost, never entirely confident in the role and lacking connection and chemistry with Pratt, which means the last scene depicting Edgardo’s suicide tends to drag.

Carbó manages to find every colouring in the desperate Enrico, abusive to his sister one moment then conciliatory and pleading the next, and his scenes with Pratt are quite possibly the dramatic highlight of the show. Arthur as the priest Raimondo is an authoritative presence, and he received massive applause on opening night. Richard Mills draws out a wonderful performance from the Victorian Opera orchestra, as well as the onstage chorus who are impeccable vocally.

Overall, a worthy re-visiting of the classic opera with a commanding lead star at its centre – a worthwhile night at the opera for any theatre-lover!

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre

Dates: Tuesday April 12th, Thursday 14th, Saturday 16th, Tuesday 19th, Thursday 21st

Time: 7:30pm

Booking: www.ticketek.com.au

Image by Jeff Busby

REVIEW: Victorian Opera Presents LA TRAVIATA

Lush and lovely revisit to a classic

By Margaret Wieringa

Violetta is a party girl, drinking and dancing and partying her life away in 1870s Paris. She loves being courted by numerous men and doesn’t believe in love – until Alfredo Germont woos her and steals her heart. Moved away from Paris to the countryside, Violetta is approached by Alfredo’s father who convinces her it is in Alfredo’s best interest to end it, and the famous tragedy plays out.

Victorian Opera 2014 - La traviata - © Jeff Bubsy

Directed by Henning Brockhaus and designed by Josef Svoboda, Victorian Opera presents this stunning production that has been acclaimed around the world. The feature that immediately grabbed the audience’s attention is the gigantic mirror that is raised before the performance commences. The backdrops are giant paintings on the floor and are reflected, along with the performers, in the mirror. This effect was magnificent, although it was not so successful during the restrained scenes at the country house, especially as it appeared the actors were climbing on the house at times which became unintentionally humourous. The appearance of doubling the size of the stage with the mirror showed a strong contrast between the decadence of the parties and the nightlife of Paris to the emptiness and loneliness of Violetta in her demise.

The production of La Traviata introduces Australian audiences to soprano Jessica Pratt, who held the audience in her hand every moment she was on stage. We lived her joy and delight and sighed as her fortune changed, and during several sections, audience members were heard called ‘Brava’. While the large social scenes were spectacular down to the tiny detailing on the costumes and the beautiful interactions between the various cast members, it was the duets that took my breath away; at the country house, with Violetta and Alfredo’s father, played with aplomb by Jose Carbo, and later in Violetta’s house between Violetta and Alfredo, played movingly by Alessandro Scotto Di Luzio.

This is an elegant production that is perfect not only for the seasoned opera lover, but also for those who have yet to take the plunge into opera. Brava!

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Dates: Saturday May 17, Tuesday May 20, Thursday May 22, Saturday May 24, Tuesday May 27, Thursday May 29
Times: 7:30pm
Booking: www.ticketek.com.au or phone 1300 795 012