Review: The Merry Opera Company’s The Barber of Seville at St George’s Theatre, Great Yarmouth

The Merry Opera Company production of The Barber of Seville. 2015LaurentCompagnon

The Merry Opera Company production of The Barber of Seville. 2015LaurentCompagnon - Credit: Archant

He’s one of the best known names in opera and, 200 years after Rossini first placed him on stage, he’s looking dapper.

Figaro is a well-dressed, fashionably moustached Mr Fix-It in this lively production of The Barber of Seville. René Bloice-Sanders’s hairdresser, who has a profitable sideline in meddling and match-making, is calm and confident and he nails that famous aria.

The Merry Opera Company always performs in English and, thanks to the simple but still witty translation of Amanda and Anthony Holden and our leading man’s clean, crisp enunciation, Figaro’s fast-paced opening number loses none of its punch.

The set has a surrealist feel, with oversized props and giant chequerboard floor tiles, and Lowestoft-born director John Ramster manages to merge together pop-art colours, 1920s and 50s fashion, knowing nods to barbershop quartets (the straw boater, a nice touch), and blissful bel canto.

Some of the slapstick humour falls flat but it’s a sparky show and it’s funny throughout.

Helen Évora is excellent as feisty Rosina in femme fatale red. She’s not a prize to be won by Lawrence Olsworth-Peter’s Count Almaviva but a woman who knows what she wants - and how to get it.

Olsworth-Peter sounds superb from the outset. He has super comic timing and revels in wearing disguises but the show really shines when all 10 members of the cast are on stage together, belting out Rossini’s catchy tunes and throwing in a few dance moves. Act one’s finale is a highlight.

The plot is, of course, completely bonkers - the Count is in love with orphaned Rosina and serenades outside her window every night. He has to move fast when he discovers her letchy guardian Bartolo, who keeps her locked inside their house, plans to marry her himself.

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Figaro is employed to sneak Almaviva - who pretending to be poor singer Lindoro to ensure Rosina loves him and not his money - in, first disguised as a drunken soldier and then as a singing teacher. It gets even sillier from there, until the Count reveals who he really is, the sweethearts get married and everyone goes home happy.

The Merry Opera Company is doing a fine job of showing the world that opera isn’t always stuffy and elitist and this is a fun, farcical night out for novices and aficionados alike.

See www.merryopera.comfor touring dates.