Jonathan Eyers as Figaro and Joseph Doody as The Count. Photo by Bill Knight.

Wilton’s Music Hall, Whitechapel, London 

Charles Court Opera’s production of Rossini’s Barber of Seville is a hilarious delight from beginning to end. The venue is the utterly charming Wilton’s Music Hall, the orchestra a pub piano, the English libretto deliciously witty, the singing magnificent and the direction unflaggingly inventive. 

The setting is Seville, USA, the set a saloon bar in the days of the Wild West. Jonathan Eyers’ Figaro dominates proceedings with his superbly gangling physique, grinning through his mellifluous barber’s baritone in the Largo al factotum (Figaro Figaro) and radiating infectious joy and light throughout. If he slurs the melismas it’s because of his copious bourbon intake during the show. Samantha Price’s Rosina articulates her mezzo runs in the letter aria with machinegun clarity combining calculated mischief and melting innocence with effortless skill. Joseph Doody’s Count Almaviva displays his light, bright tenor as a peacock does feathers, his chinless toff charmingly willing to subvert himself to the barber’s mad schemes and elaborate disguises. Even the costume gets a laugh. Matthew Kellett’s Bartolo with diction as clear as speech, gestures rich with comic timing and a warm creosote bass, performs the possessive guardian with seething melodramatic idiocy. Hugo Herman-Wilson’s Basilio is a baritone of greasy depth adding avarice to stupidity. Arthur Bruce contributes the baritone bit-parts and makes an impact with his Keystone cop. Ellie Laugharne’s Berta does a salacious turn as a vaudeville soprano – most appropriate at Wilton’s – who nonetheless seems a little young to be singing about the attractions of the older woman. 

The ensemble numbers are exquisite and director John Savournin draws from a mine of comedic moves and routines to exploit the unique physical capabilities of his cast. No one though contributes more to the enormous success of this venture than the company’s musical director David Eaton at the piano who not only plays the entire score with great virtuosity but has also written the English libretto based on but not bound by the Beaumarchais original of 1775. With this production, comedy certainly does travel down the centuries. It’s on only for a fortnight, folks, so make your way to the East End post haste. 

Rick Jones 

Hon Gen Sec