The Barber of Seville – review

Coliseum, London

Jonathan Miller's classic staging, first seen in 1987, is back for another run. This time, there's a soprano Rosina, instead of the lower mezzo the part was written for. What the character loses in terms of depth and warmth, Lucy Crowe makes up for in sparkle; her numerous added high notes gives her confident realisation an extra touch of brilliance.

Neither Andrew Kennedy's Almaviva nor Benedict Nelson's Figaro quite matches her. Kennedy is an eager comic actor, enjoying his disguises as a drunken soldier and singing teacher, but he could do with more bel canto grace and neater coloratura. So could Nelson, who also needs to connect more with the audience as the show's lynchpin intriguer. But his top notes ring out boldly and he has the makings of an ebullient barber.

The evening's finest performances come from David Soar as Basilio, who never puts a comic foot wrong and makes a real highlight of his slander aria, and from Andrew Shore, returning to his familiar role of Dr Bartolo. Shore again demonstrates why he has few rivals anywhere in this repertory today, providing a virtuoso display of the skills required – not least in terms of his flawless diction; if there's the odd moment when his performance threatens to run amok, he reins it in immediately. Katherine Broderick, meanwhile, throws in a vibrant and well-sung Berta.

Miller's production was scarcely radical even when new, but it has maintained its sharp focus and dramatic intelligence. Some of the jokes are probably older than Miller, and a few even older than Rossini, but they still do the business. Conductor Jaime Martín, too, keeps the score bouncing along with a perfect blend of energy and elegance.

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George Hall

The GuardianTramp

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