Rossini's The Barber of Seville gives us a seldom experienced and welcome juncture in opera; a charming score, an airtight, easy to follow story, and a happy ending (for all!). I encourage you to enjoy this light and elegant opera buffa based on the play by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais before year's end, as 2016 marks the 200th anniversary year of its première.

Jana Kurucová (Rosina) © Matthias Horn (2009)
Jana Kurucová (Rosina)
© Matthias Horn (2009)

Our story opens in... Seville? Stage designer Katharina Thalbach has placed Seville on the seaside in her Deutsche Oper Berlin production. One immediately knows to dismiss all connections to reality, and just enjoy it. Our star hairdresser, Figaro, has met his former employer, Count Almaviva, who, disguised as a poor student, attempts to win the love of Rosina, the pretty ward of un-pretty and penurious old Doctor Bartolo. With various mild fiends and flaming helpers, Figaro manages to unite the two lovers. Those disappointed in love are rewarded in gold. All's well that ends well.

During the rather infamous 1816 première, a cat is said to have walked on the stage, eventually to be tossed forcefully into the wings. In Berlin Ms Thalbach goes one better – and gave us a little donkey walk-on while we enjoy the overture, delightful and funny. This 2009 production retains a fresh, captivating, ongoing humour. You will laugh out loud from beginning to end. A gaggle of nuns, a wonderfully flamboyant assistant barber, flying hammers and, of course, the donkey – Ms Thalbach has created a rich visual palette which does not distract from the opera, unless you giggle too loudly.

Figaro was performed brilliantly by Italian baritone Davide Luciano, a role he has made his own with his strong, warm tone and perfect comic timing. I believe I would trust him with my hair, or my private affairs – he seems to manage all effortlessly. His former employer, Count Almaviva was sung less successfully by South African tenor Levy Sekgapane. Although a lovely voice and technique could be discerned, Mr Sekgapane simply did not project. Slovakian mezzo soprano Jana Kurucová is a fabulous Rosina, displaying complete mastery of the role in voice and physical presence. Ms Kurucová, brilliantly managing the coloratura in her singing lesson while receiving cunnilingus, shows us an extra skill set to be sure. Hilarious.

The unloved old Bartolo, sung by Italian Tiziano Bracci, was not without charm, although in his technical arias his voice simply disappeared and he could not be heard. Croatian basso Marko Mimica is a favourite at the Deutsche Oper and rightly so; his Basilio was very enjoyable, aptly named for such a great bass voice. And lastly, the sudden outburst of longing and frustration by Berta, sung by South Korean Seyoung Park was perfect, especially as she grabbed a skinny waiter and made off with him. Good for you, Berta!

Daniel Cohen conducted the brilliant Deutsche Oper Orchestra through the score with aplomb. Many solos were enjoyed from the winds, although the solo trumpet seemed less attentive. While many opera houses, including a second Berlin venue, are premiering their staging of the The Barber of Seville in this anniversary year, Deutsche Oper Berlin's production is definitely one you'll want to catch. The opera will be performed four times more in this season. Enjoy!