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Rossini’s Opera: The Barber of Sevilla in the Harmonie in Leeuwarden

Date:13 November 2019
Author:Marc Flessa
Marc Flessa
Marc Flessa

“Every kind of music is good except the boring kind”, there is probably hardly anyone who would doubt this sentence of the Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868). The question, however, still holds, what is then boring? For some, Country music might seem boring, for some its rather rock ballads or maybe even sometimes rap. However, there is one thing which seems rather unlikely that anyone would find boring and this was the fantastic enactment of Rossini’s buoyant opera “The Barber of Sevilla” in the Harmonie in Leeuwarden on the 9th of October 2019. 

Visually stunning, great singing, colorful and bizarre, Laurence Dale’s interpretation for the Nederlandse Reise Opera was really amazing, some hours which can leave nobody untouched.  The musically part was wonderfully fulfilled by the Noord Nederlands Orkest in their orchestra pit.

The scenery was buildup of movable boxes of different shapes and sizes. The box themselves partly contained rooms or windows. The boxes were apparently discreetly turned around during the performance to match the different scenes. The outer layer was made of glazed tiles which in their colors and shapes reminded me a bit of the houses by Antonio Gaudi. The costumes were a mixture of modern and traditional. The main character wore a white suit and the barber himself a red velvet coat and drove around with a beautiful electric Vespa. Overall, a classification of the staging is hardly possible. Neither less, I can gladly admit that I have hardly ever seen a modern opera interpretation which was done so classily and still happily, I have hardly ever laughed so much in an opera before, I have hardly ever seen an opera which was so bizarre and pathetic at the same time. Overall it was an amazing and enjoyable performance, greatly staged, sang and played. As we all now, a picture says more than a thousand words, I really hope you are going to take a look at the included pictures of the performance. I could write another thousand words and you still wouldn’t get a real feeling for this explosion of colors, emotions and joy, while pictures are not able to transfer all this, they are still a better source than my words.

While walking to the Harmonie at quarter to seven, we, first year GRL student Theresa and me, were lucky enough to find a gap of no rain in this rather rainy, cold and windy Dutch October day. Is there anything better to spend such a rainy evening with than such a phenomenal cultural event? At the box office we bought our tickets, which with a price of 15 Euro each were in my opinion very nicely priced. On this, I must however also admit that with the so called Jongerenkaart you get a considerable discount on the ticket prices when bought on the day of the performance, otherwise the tickets would have been more than 40 Euro. Due to the architectonical nature of the concert hall most places allow a good view on the stage. What in my opinion is so inspiring about opera and concert visits is that, as the great Opera Diva Maria Callas put it, “an opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I've left the opera house“, while she sees it from the perspective of the artists, it is similar for the visitor. The visits and the experience, at least for me, begins with you dressing up, the pleasant anticipation, in case you are accompanied, the nice talks before, in the break and after the performance, the emotional eruptions during the show and it only ends when you go to bed and take the last bits of the before had experience, store it in your memory and make it the content of your dreams. 

In the story itself the rich Count of Almaviva is desperate in love with the beautiful Rosina who lives in the house of her strict old guardian Dottore Bartolo, who is also interested in the young lady. In his despair the count asks the smart barber Figaro to help him. After Rosina also fell in love with Almaviva they decide to affranchise her from her guardian’s palace who wants to use the momentum and marry her. As its seems typical for a buoyant opera like this, the plot is streaked by intrigues, ruses and confusions. In the end, however, you might have guessed it, it ends with a … . 

Overall, it was a simply marvelous evening. Definitely not as tragic or declamatory as Verdi’s Nabucco or Wagner’s Tristan but cheerful and light. Or to say with the words of Julian Barnes, “Opera cuts to the chase - as death does. An art which seeks, more obviously than any other form, to break your heart”.