The opening curtain revealed an impressive set, appreciated by the East Grinstead audience, for the shenanigans that are about to take place in the Spanish south. As events took their amusing and tangled course in that orange-laden city of Seville, so the vibrant colours of the architecture were reflected in the effective costumes of the tuneful chorus and the capable cast.
Jonathan Butcher took a very modest and cautious pace in the overture and I was dying to move him on especially when it came to the opening numbers… Nevertheless it paid off with Rossini’s florid scoring at this point, so all hung together very well, thanks to the small appropriate orchestra, which gave excellent support throughout.
The Count’s (Yuri Sabatini) opening number could have brought a little more panache as he encouraged his serenading musicians. His lyrical, delightful tenor voice was somewhat light against their robust accompaniment. As with the ladies, the gentlemen of the chorus were in fine voice and contributed much pleasurable singing to the evening’s entertainment; that extends to Katharine Price as Berta and Samuel Queen as Fiorello, who, as comprimari, did not disappoint in their small parts.
Probably Jeremy Vinogradov as Figaro had the most tongue-twisting role in the heinously difficult English rendering of Largo al Factotum. Anyone who has tried to sing this aria will be fully aware of the dangers it holds even in the Italian but I guess even more so in our vernacular. This performance of it was as intriguing as it was engaging… The Count was in fine fettle as the ridiculous replacement music teacher, wearing a beautifully mastered creation of a hat big enough to conceal a French stick. The little canzonetta introduced for Rosina by bass Don Basilio, (Leon Berger) who turns up unexpectedly, was beautifully sung by Kelly Sharp, who delighted with the purity of her singing throughout. Bartolo’s fine falsetto soprano, amusingly taking us all by surprise, must here be mentioned.