Rossini's The Barber of Seville has been his most enduringly well-loved opera. It's in the top ten of operas performed worldwide today, and it has stayed at the top of the most-played lists even when many of his other works were little played. This isn't an accident: it's an easy-going romantic comedy which doesn't demand much and leaves you feeling good and humming the tunes - most particularly, Figaro's bombastic, fast-talking Largo al factotum, which has to be one of the greatest theatrical entrances ever.

© January 2011 The Royal Opera, Mike Hoban
© January 2011 The Royal Opera, Mike Hoban

Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier's production, first staged in 2005, goes for simplicity and bright colours. Costumes are indeterminate of period, eye-catching and vivid, the Count resplendent in scarlet, the guards in royal blue with white pith helmets, Rosina in crimson cardigan and apple green ball gown. The sets are simple to the point of being spartan - except that things pop up and disappear unexpectedly to add to the fun. The production pulls off the difficult trick of being fresh and a little bit different without trying to reinvent the opera.

The star of the evening was Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, fresh from signing a prestigious recording contract with Decca. She has everything needed for Rosina: gorgeous looks, plenty of comic acting and timing and a lovely, meltingly warm voice. The role is technically demanding on the singer, but you wouldn't know it: there was never a sniff of Kurzak missing or wobbling a note, and she could throw herself into the dramatic nature of the part while letting the music flow. I was happy to listen to her all evening.

Conductor Rory Macdonald kept everything going briskly and pleasantly, although the orchestra lacked the degree of crispness that's needed to make the most of Rossini: there were too many slight fluffs and timing errors to let you really get carried away by Rossini's famous crescendi. The rest of the singing was much in the same vein: thoroughly competent, but not so as to blow you away. Ildar Abdrazakov stole the show as Don Basilio, giving us a splendidly devious exposition of the virtues of slander in La calunnia è un venticello. The bar for Count Almaviva has been set high in recent years by Juan Diego Flórez: John Osborn sang in similar style but without quite reaching the mark. As the barber Figaro, Levente Molnár was thoroughly in command of the stage, but not as impressive in fast-patter diction or vocal dynamics. Bruno Praticò was disappointing as Dr. Bartolo: he growled, wheezed, snarled and whined his way through the part, which was suitably characterful but not very musical.

And there lies the point of Il Barbiere di Siviglia: it has hours of overflowingly charming and revitalising music, as well as being hours of stage fun, with a libretto full of wonderful gags. One of my favourites is the line when Figaro realises that Rosina is a match for him in deviousness and describes her as Che volpe superfina ("what a fox of the highest quality"), another is the moment early on when the count instructs Fiorello and his musicians to be quiet and not say a word (Piano, senza parlar) with a high note on the Piano that would awaken the dead.

This production may be short of perfection, but it's certainly good enough to capture the spirit of an enchanting feel-good tale. As I left the Royal Opera House, audience members were chatting happily to each other about what a lovely evening it had been - and that, after all, is what a Rossini opera is about.