About us / Contact

The Classical Music Network


Europe : Paris, Londn, Zurich, Geneva, Strasbourg, Bruxelles, Gent
America : New York, San Francisco, Montreal                       WORLD

Your email :



Il barbiere di Parma, ossia “l’argent fait tout!”

Teatro Regio
01/12/2024 -  & January, 16*, 18, 20, 2024
Gioachino Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L’inutile precauzione
Maxim Mironov (Il Conte Almaviva), Andrzej Filonczyk (Figaro), Maria Kataeva (Rosina), Marco Filippo Romano (Don Bartolo), Roberto Tagliavini (Basilio), Licia Piermatteo (Berta), William Corrò (Fiorello)
Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma, Martino Faggiani (chorus master), Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini, Diego Ceretta (conductor)
Pier Luigi Pizzi (stage director, sets & costumes), Massimo Gasparon (assistant stage director & lighting)

A. Filonczyk, M. Kataeva, M. Mironov (© Roberto Ricci)

I had high expectations, having travelled to Parma specifically to see this production. I look forward to Mozart’s and Rossini’s comedic operas south of the Alps, as unfortunately in the north, attempts at operatic humour are rarely felicitous. In North America, it’s even worse, as the predilection for slapstick destroys comedic possibilities. Operatic comedy is harder to pull off than tragedy, and Parma’s public is reputed to be among the most discerning. Resultantly, mediocre singers daren’t sing in the town’s venerable Teatro Regio. Fortunately, my wish was granted, for this was a supremely pleasurable affair, both vocally and visually.

Pier Luigi Pizzi’s production for Teatro Regio was a reworking of his 2018 staging for the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro. It exceeded expectations thanks to a near ideal cast, and to the creative genius of the ninety-three-year-old stage director. This veteran director perfectly understands and loves opera. He doesn’t resort to foolish ideas such as changing the epoch and setting, or by introducing an altogether new plot. Unlike many directors, Pizzi believes in opera and finds the composer’s original intentions more than sufficient.

A true creative mind, Pizzi is also a highly-cultured man blessed with good taste, whose imprimatur even reaches the set and costume designs of his productions. As is often the case, in Parma, he opted for black and white sets, ensuring that both actors and costumes would stand out. Cesare Sterbini (1784‑1831), librettist of Rossini’s comedic masterpiece, was an exceptional one, for the action is concise, the humour abundant and the interaction between the characters dynamic. By simply following the libretto, even a half decent stage director can succeed brilliantly. In Pizzi’s hands, the comedy flows naturally, and the characters are well-defined and sympathetic–even the unsavoury ones.

In Act I, Count Almaviva tells Figaro that he noticed a lovely girl from Seville in Court in the Spanish capital and is in town to pursue her (“Al Prado vidi un fior di bellezza, una fanciulla figlia d’un certo medico barbogio”). Accordingly, this Madrileno nobleman comes to Seville and rents a house facing Don Bartolo’s, to be able to work on his conquest. Emphasizing this enterprising spirit reveals a Count that is plausible in La Folle Journée ou Le Mariage de Figaro (1778) by Pierre Beaumarchais (1732‑1799), the sequel to Le Barbier de Séville (1775). Given the proximity of his rented house to Rosina’s, the serenade and the flirtation through the window all seem natural.

Russian tenor Maxim Mironov was an ideal Count Almaviva, a.k.a. Lindoro, despite an imperfect first aria, the Act I “Ecco ridente in cielo.” Once he’d warmed up, Mironov was a true bête de scène, both vocally and dramatically. His second aria, the short canzone “Se il mio nome saper bramate” was charm personified. A handsome man, Mironov’s posture and deportment was that of a self‑assured nobleman, making him a credible and irresistible seducer. His final aria, “Cessa di più resistere,” was a masterclass in Rossini singing. Often cut from most productions, this aria is now more often included, and thank goodness for that. The aria’s cabaletta “Ah il più lieto, il più felice,” was the evening’s most exciting moment. Many will recognize its music as Angelina’s rondo “Non più mesta” from La Cenerentola (1817).

Rossini famously cannibalized and recycled his own music. Even Il barbiere di Siviglia’s glorious overture is borrowed from his opera Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra (1815) and an even earlier opera Aureliano in Palmira (1813). Almaviva’s disguises, from the drunk officer in Act I or Don Alonso, a replacement music tutor in Act II, were hilarious. He managed to conjure an extremely short Don Alonso by walking on his knees, covered by his ecclesiastical robe, to which shoes were attached. It must have been challenging to sing and act while in this uncomfortable predicament.

Russian mezzo Maria Kataeva was a brilliant Rosina, feminine, charming and mischievous. She also managed to convey the character’s relative inexperience and vulnerability, traits necessary to explain her volte‑face when she is tricked into believing that her beau Lindoro was seducing her on the behalf of another, Count Almaviva. Her rich mezzo conveyed the character’s coyness and coquettishness. Her first aria, the Act I “Una voce poco fa” was technically flawless, but perhaps lacking charm. Nonetheless, I prefer such an interpretation to one with “forced” allure. Her Act II lesson aria, “Contro un cor,” was more appealing, in part thanks to her great chemistry with Mironov.

Polish baritone Andrzej Filonczyk was one of the best Figaros I’ve ever heard. It happens that some baritones mistakenly think that as it’s the title role, Figaro is the most important character, yet nothing could be further from the truth. When Figaro takes too much space, the comedic verve feels forced and the dramatic tension inevitably fails. The dramatic success of Rossini’s masterpiece is dependent on the equilibrium of the triangle of Almaviva-Rosina-Figaro. Rosina and Count Almaviva are the lovers and hence the heroes of the story. Figaro is the astute facilitator. Happily, both director Pizzi and Filonczyk understood this important premise.

Filonczyk’s high baritone was ideally suited for the role. His “Largo al factotum” was impeccably sung and fortunately devoid of excess, a recurring problem with most Figari. He used this signature aria to convey who Figaro is, an astute jack‑of‑all‑trades. Impressively, all three major characters were sung by non‑Italians, two Russians and a Pole, all employing superb Italian diction. One could be easily convinced that Mironov, whose career in Italy is the longest of the three, was in fact Italian, so impeccable was his fluency.

A brilliant actor, Marco Filippo Romano made Don Bartolo, Rosina’s guardian who schemes to marry her for her dowry, the most amusing character on stage. Seen a few months ago in the same role in Vienna, Romano elicited laughter throughout his performance, without ever resorting to predictable buffoonery. Wit and frivolity come naturally to this talented singer‑actor. Pizzi formulated the idea of having Bartolo roll his Rs like the French. It was clear this was an affectation, as he did away with it when he sang some rapidly pronounced lines. This mannerism made Bartolo appropriately pedantic and overbearing, the essence of the old man’s character.

Italian bass Roberto Tagliavini was a fittingly slimy Don Basilio. One could almost smell incense, given his brilliant interpretation of the cleric, music teacher and master schemer. His Act I aria “La calunnia” was brilliantly interpreted, thanks to his deep basso profondo as well as his excellent diction and acting. The two minor characters of Berta and Fiorello were well‑cast. Italian mezzo Licia Piermatteo sounded too young and looked too pretty to be the old maid, desperate to find a husband, as exemplified in her aria “Il vecchiotto cerca moglie.” Italian bass‑baritone William Corrò was a deluxe Fiorello, with abundant charisma and a robust voice. Watch out for this young man!
A very young conductor, Diego Ceretta, led Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini with aplomb. He proved his affinity for Rossini thanks to the brisk tempi that made the music sparkle.

Pizzi astutely chose to make money the opera’s leitmotif. This is appropriate, as Figaro describes Don Bartolo to Almaviva in Act I as an avaricious man, “Un vecchio indemoniato avaro, sospettoso, brontolone... Per mangiare a Rosina tutta l’eredità, s’è fitto in capo di volerla sposare... aiuto!” Figaro is obviously an eager and avid man, as his duet with Almaviva clearly conveys: “All’idea di quel metallo portentoso, onnipossente.” Almaviva has plenty of money and will distribute it freely if it facilitates gaining Rosina. He gives some to the musicians hired to serenade her, and to Figaro for his help in his amorous endeavours. He also bribes Don Basilio to betray Don Bartolo and to be a witness to his betrothal. Finally, he relinquishes Rosina’s dowry to Don Bartolo. At the opera’s conclusion, all celebrate around the dinner table. Though the line is said by Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro (1786), it could well apply to Beaumarchais’s earlier play and basis of Rossini’s opera: “L’argent fait tout!”

Ossama el Naggar



Copyright ©ConcertoNet.com