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Il barbiere di SivigliaRossini
D: Johannes Pölzgutter
C: Antonino Fogliani
Intrigue, disguise and the damnation of ageing: Rossini’s Barbiere in Zurich

Aspiring operatic voices of the renowned Zurich International Opera Studio recently premiered a new production of Gioachino Rossini’s popular Il barbiere di Siviglia in the nearby city of Winterthur. The two-act opera tells the story of an energetic barber, Figaro, who makes cunning attempts to help Count Almaviva prise the beautiful Rosina away from her lecherous old guardian, Dr Bartolo. Rossini’s work is based on an eponymous play by Pierre Beaumarchais, who actually wrote three plays around the figure of Figaro, this being the first. Of the leads, two voices stole the show. Dean Murphy’s superb baritone gave real heft to the slick and natty Figaro, whose self-infatuation, given his clever schemes, could somehow be forgiven. The American’s articulation and carriage as a modish sunny boy saw the audience in his hand from the start, and his character’s preening and trendy blue hair made us love him even more. His vocal delivery of the popular “Largo al factotum” aria in which he lauds his own praises, couldn’t have been more convincing: “Everyone wants me,” he sings, “women, youngsters, oldies, the golden-haired…” Figaro’s is a tremendously vibrant presence, the real driver of the action and Murphy brought the house lights on. In other of the leads, Leonardo Sánchez sang Almaviva, not without a tad of difficulty in the highest register at the start. That said, the young Mexican tenor went on to shine in exchanges with the other principals, and had pep and stamina that nicely fleshed out his role. British bass-baritone Richard Walshe was convincingly transformed into the lecherous Dr Bartolo, adding a good 50 years to his own age. Despite the demands of “ageing”, his voice had great kick and colour, and he consistently met the challenges of Italian at warp-speed. So too, bass Wojciech Rasiak sang Don Basilio, Rosina’s music teacher, admirably.

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16 May 2019bachtrack.comSarah Batschelet