Sunday, July 19, 2009

After catching Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) last Wednesday at the BP summer screening at Trafalgar Square last Wednesday, I am completely and utterly in love with Juan Diego Florez, the Peruvian tenor who played Count Almaviva.

First off, yes, the screening was out in the open, and all of us who were there were caught in the rain. It obviously wasn't great for people who weren't in the best of health, such as myself, just recovering from the flu, and I certainly paid the price for that the day after.

So how does one see the screens if there're umbrellas blocking your view?

That being said, the event was awesome. Not only did BP provide ponchos (although they had run out by the time I arrived at 6.45 pm) and inflatable cushions, they only sponsored the entire event so, in a word, the screening was free. 

Wet, wet, wet

And the thing with the BP screenings  is that often it's not the second-string cast that's appearing, but the full-fledged, incredibly talented star-studded cast, which, on this occasion, also included Joyce DiDonato as feisty Rosina. And you get to see the stage and the orchestra on a huge screen, much larger than you'd get to see them if you were sitting in the theatre, even if you were right in the front rows.

Fortunately, the rain stopped just before the performance begun. Yay! (Conductor Antonio Pappano introducing the performance)

To cut a long, and potentially very ignorant sounding review short, I'll just say that these were the highlights for me:

  • Watching conductor Antonio Pappano work his considerable magic in interpreting the music.
  • Watching Pappano's incredibly expressive face. I think I could have watched him conducting the orchestra for the next few hours rather than the opera and still have been entertained.
  • Figaro's entertaining entrance. The eponymous barber, played by Pietro Spagnoli in his debut at Covent Garden, entered via the audience doors while singing his aria Largo al factotum della città, and occasionally pauses by bald members of the audience, before waving his arms indicating he can't help them.
  • Being awed by Joyce DiDonato's fantastic portrayal of Rosina. Her singing was powerful and her acting was sublime. She was indeed a very spirited and feisty Rosina, even though she was wheelchair-bound the whole time! As you may have read, the great lady broke her leg during the first performance of Siviglia.
  • Ferruccio Furlanetto who was hilarious as an incredibly oily Don Basilio. I swear he - as Don Basilio - was deriving some obscene amount of pleasure out of the idea of using slander to bring Almaviva down.
  • And, of course, Juan Diego Florez's tour de force of a performance as the Count. His voice is incredibly powerful, and the last fifteen minutes of the opera, when he sings the "unsingable" aria Cessa di piu resistere (which is sometimes omitted from other performances of Siviglia because of its sheer difficulty), it's just... whoa. He just nailed it. This YouTube video shows just how good a singer he is. And he's so young... and unfortunately, married. I actually felt a little heartbroken when I found out!

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