A new production of Il barbiere di Siviglia in Pesaro is always an event: the best known of Rossini’s works sets high expectations at the Rossini Opera Festival. Legendary director Pier Luigi Pizzi, 88, presents his first production of Barbiere, convincing critics and audience alike. The visual impact was strong: a bright, luminous space, with minimalistic architectures, was the stage against which the characters at times were stylised as silhouettes. The colour palette was black and white, with occasional splashes of colour in the costumes (Almaviva’s red cape, Berta’s purple dress, Rosina’s pastel gowns). The result was one of classic, elegant beauty.

Davide Luciano (Figaro) and Aya Wakizono (Rosina) © Studio Amatio Bacciardi
Davide Luciano (Figaro) and Aya Wakizono (Rosina)
© Studio Amatio Bacciardi

The best part of the theatrical production was the direction of the singers, which showed great focus on Personenregie. Each role had a strong characterisation, and the interaction among the singers was detailed and careful. The acting during the concertati was particularly funny, with singers dancing on the runway in front of the pit, still singing in perfect pitch and tempo. Several expedients were employed in the enunciation for comical effect, from the French “R” used by Bartolo in his recitatives, hilarious when imitated by Rosina, to the sibilant “S” shown by “Don Alfonso”, to the stutter of Don Basilio.

The Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale RAI, under the baton of conductor Yves Abel, gave an interpretation almost completely devoid of traditional effects, with well-calibrated crescendo and great support of the singers. Richard Barker was fantastic at the fortepiano, with a clever, ironic support. The overture was taken with a slightly aggressive spirit, receiving a thunderous ovation.

Maxim Mironov (Almaviva) © Studio Amatio Bacciardi
Maxim Mironov (Almaviva)
© Studio Amatio Bacciardi

The cast was overall brilliant, the singers harmoniously cooperating, showing understanding and chemistry even in the smaller roles. William Corrò was solid as both Fiorello and the officer, while Elena Zilio, as Berta, showed great musicianship and knowledge of her craft. In her aria, her voice showed the burden of the years, somewhat uneven between the upper and middle register, bur her rendition was masterful and engaging. Her contribution in the ensembles was absolutely on point, and her acting moving, with a sweet, maternal attitude towards Rosina. 

Veteran Michele Pertusi was a funny, strong Don Basilio, with a tendency to slightly overact and talk in his singing, but solid and engaging. Pietro Spagnoli’s voice was perhaps a little light for Dottore Bartolo, but his command of the style and the technique, together with his acting abilities, made him one of the best singers on stage.

Elena Zilio (Berta) © Studio Amatio Bacciardi
Elena Zilio (Berta)
© Studio Amatio Bacciardi

Rosina was sung by Aya Wakizono, who, to my ears, sounded more like a soprano than a mezzo: her high notes were shiny and bright, while her middle register, while beautiful and warm, sounded at times a bit clouded. This is not a fault, in itself: Rosina has traditionally been sung in any feminine tessitura. Her coloratura was secure and precise, her acting engaging and funny, helped by a girlish stage presence, making her performance enjoyable.

Maxim Mironov’s performance was one of the highlights of the evening: his high notes were exciting and very easy, his coloratura sparkling, executed with style and precision. The only small complaint could be that the colour of the voice tended to be a little nasal, at times. He cuts an impressive figure on stage, perfect as the elegant aristocrat; still, he didn’t shy away from rowdy comedy, and his impersonation of the drunk soldier was spot on. The final, impossibly hard, rondo “Cessa di più resistere” took the house down.

Pietro Spagnoli (Bartolo), Michele Pertusi (Basilio) and Maxim Mironov (Almaviva) © Studio Amatio Bacciardi
Pietro Spagnoli (Bartolo), Michele Pertusi (Basilio) and Maxim Mironov (Almaviva)
© Studio Amatio Bacciardi

Figaro, the driving force behind the whole plot, was sung by Davide Luciano, whose powerful baritone showed incredible projection. His middle register had sometimes some slightly coarse accents, especially on the “A” vowel, which didn’t seem to find proper support, but it was only at times; overall, especially in the duets and ensembles, his singing was elegant and stylish. He is a natural, on the stage, and was truly engaging and funny. In “Largo al factotum” he found the right interpretation, perfectly conveying not only the cunning spirit, but also the joie de vivre of a young, upcoming, successful bourgeois, and the right level of sprezzatura. His striptease during his cavatina was much appreciated.

The evening was a tremendous success. The excitement was palpable, the audience was laughing throughout, and the cheers were sincere and heartfelt.

****1