REVIEW: The Barber of Seville


If you have ever wanted to take a risk on opera, this should be the one. Opera North have produced a show which destroys any myths that opera should be hard to sit through, or only for people who know Italian.

The story centres on Count Almaviva (Nicholas Watts), who disguises himself as a poor student to win the affections of Rosina (Katie Bray) under the nose of the elderly Doctor Bartolo (Eric Roberts). The barber himself is Figaro (Gavan Ring) who (amongst many other things) is a man who gets things done. For a price, he helps to make sure that Almaviva and Rosina are able to marry.

This might not sound exactly like an episode of How I Met Your Mother, but this production is a surprisingly lively and fresh comedy considering that the original opera celebrates its 200th anniversary next year. It helps that it is sung in English, which lends itself readily to moments of ‘sarcastic singing’ (complete with eye-rolls), and throwaway rhymes (“In plainest Spanish/ would you please vanish”).

Gavan Rings performance as Figaro dominates the show, dressed in bright red and blue, with flower-capped shoes. Barber, as the self-proclaimed handyman of the city, introduces himself with his recognisable aria (if you can think of an opera that goes “Figaro Figaro Figaro” – it’s that one.) It’s incredibly fast, funny and impressive – and he makes it looks easy.

This shouldn’t take away from Watt’s Count Almaviva, and Katie Bray’s Rosina. All three share a wonderful chemistry onstage as their schemes and disguises are excitedly planned and foiled. Bray’s performance as Rosina is just the right balance between campy, over-the-top comedy, and technically brilliant singing.

With student tickets going as cheap as £10, it’s well worth giving opera a chance this Thursday at the Theatre Royal.

By Josh Giltrap