Glyndebourne Festival 2019 Review: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Hera Hyesang Park Leads A Wonderful Cast In An Engaging Rendition Of Classic Work

By Jennifer Pyron
(Credit Robert Workman)

First performed at Glyndebourne in 1954 and revived now twice, both in 2016 and 2019, Rossini’s “Il barbiere di Siviglia” has consistently proven to be just the right dose of comic relief within a well-rounded opera season.

With the production featuring Director Annabel Arden’s 2016 dreams coming to life again in 2019, at the hands of revival director Sinéad O’Neill, one might ask if it still remains relevant to Glyndebourne’s audience? And if so, how? 

Exploring the opera-goer’s nostalgic itch that happily gets scratched by this opera has been done before by several enthusiasts and there is no mistaking Rossini’s genius creation. Therefore, I took a look further into the production and the performers that create “no ordinary opera” for Glyndebourne’s sophisticated aesthete to enjoy again and again.

Reviewing a Revival With Enthusiasm at its Core

Rossini’s already visually inducing score simply requires the necessary space to breathe and expand. Therefore, it makes sense to feature set designer Joanna Parker’s blue and white Spanish tile landscape which beautifully houses the stage, with an immersive effect. Featuring this visually fluctuating web with this culturally authentic design showcases every titillating detail that arises throughout the opera.

Overall, Arden’s concept also creates artistically driven frames within her design, such as a perspective of the balcony, the music room, and Rosina’s chamber. The setting also exposes the cast of performers personifying a handful of dramatic characters, each with their own agenda. Most especially fueled by passionate advances is the character of Rosina, as she leads Figaro on one wild journey.

Having A Blast

Making her debut role at Glyndebourne as Rosina, Hera Hyesang Park tasted the delights of all things beautiful and charming in her role. She delighted herself in every measure of the experience while frolicking about the stage in Balenciaga inspired gowns, and cushioning her every fall with plush overstuffed multi-colored pillows. Park exuded an unmatchable enthusiasm throughout her performance, and in this spirit she freely inventsed Rosina as an extension of herself.

Baritone Andrey Zhilikhovsky also portrayed an original and exciting version of his role, as Figaro. Zhilikovsky showcased a memorable performance, while at Glyndebourne for his second time, especially, while singing Figaro’s famous aria “Largo al factotum.” He utilized his body with ease and fluidity between his notes and phrases. And one might experience his performance in a way that is similar to the feeling one has while tasting a delicious piece of chocolate. Zhilikovsky melted and transformed all of one’s senses. Emoting an innate connection to this role, he left one wanting to hear and see more.

Harry Thatcher, as Fiorello, was also a brilliant highlight of this production. Thatcher is a soloist from The Glyndebourne Chorus and a Glyndebourne Jerwood Young Artist that provided Spanish guitars for each chorus member to play, while waiting patiently below Rosina’s balcony. One could sense his ownership in this role, as he kept the humor buoyant and fresh during this scene. 

Count Almaviva, sung by Levy Sekgapane, was also an excellent communicator of humor as he performed the aria “Se il mio nome saper voi bramate.” Sekgapane showed a keen sense of awareness while in this role and never took a moment too seriously. One might experience his spark of glee, as the very vibration that resonated throughout the core of the entire production. Sekgapane’s smile and demeanor lit up the stage and one could not help but to smile along with him in return.

Janis Kelly, as Berta, and Alessandro Corbelli, as Dr. Bartolo, performed these roles, again from the 2016 production, and did not miss a beat. Kelly sang with a flavorful balance of hilarity mixed with solid vocal technique. She never faltered once while she rode along the edge of delivering comic punches and moving about the stage. Kelly found pleasure in her role, which invited the audience to easily find pleasure in her performance.

Overall, the artistic activity on stage with the back-and-forth moving of harpsichords and the in-and-out drawers of the main room’s armoire, mirrored the ebb and flow of Rossini’s humor and the tumultuous emotions of these characters. There was never a moment’s rest.

And so, the opera continued forward with a sense of jolly enthusiasm that undeniably continued to delight the audience with every twist and turn.

Glyndebourne’s “Il barbiere di Siviglia” continues the tradition of simply and elegantly delighting audiences and future generations abound.


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