Reviews of opening night
The Barber of Seville – National Opera House, Wexford
Rossini gets a rock makeover…Characters are given space to sing and shine in impressive updating of a comic classic…..It’s a night to remember.
The Barber of Seville – National Opera House, Wexford
…plenty of hearty chuckles and the odd belly laugh at a sold-out house in Wexford throughout the opening night of Wide Open Opera’s new production of Rossini’s Barber of Seville. Aside from the excellent solo performances, the quality of nicely shaped crescendos in the ensemble numbers was among the many pleasures of the evening. Superb.
One of the most celebrated and popular of all operas – Rossini’s comic masterpiece The Barber of Seville featuring Irish mezzo Tara Erraught – to be presented by Wide Open Opera in a new production in April 2016.
Hailed by Frankfurter Allgemeine as “The new queen of bel-canto”, international celebrity mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught makes an eagerly awaited homecoming in her first complete opera role in Ireland singing Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for Wide Open Opera. Tara’s performances of this role have taken her to the Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera and Hamburg State Opera and now Irish audiences can experience this vocal phenomenon in her signature role.
Rossini’s comic masterpiece tells the story of the young and beautiful Rosina who is held captive by the elderly Dr Bartolo who plans to marry her when she comes of age. Rosina, however, is in love with a mysterious young man, who turns out to be Count Almaviva, who has been serenading her from the street below her balcony. Count Almaviva needs the help of Figaro the barber, in order to break in to Bartolo’s house, setting in train a series of hilarious misunderstandings, improbable disguises and quick-witted double crossing that keep the action fizzing from start to finish.
Alongside Tara Erraught, rising US tenor Tyler Nelson makes his Irish debut as the romantic Count Almaviva while star Irish baritone, Gavan Ring, fresh from great acclaim at Opera North as Figaro (the barber), returns to this role for Wide Open Opera. British bass Graeme Danby is the crusty Dr Bartolo, while Irish operatic favourite John Molloy is Don Basilio, the slimy music tutor. Irish soprano Mary O’Sullivan has the thankless job of trying to keep the house in order as the maid Berta.
Directed by Michael Barker-Caven – a three-time winner of Best Opera Production at the Irish Times Theatre Awards – designed by Jamie Vartan – winner of best set design at the 2013 World Stage Design with lighting by celebrated Irish designer Sinéad Wallce, this new production will be one of the largest Irish opera productions of 2016 and the first opera production to be seen at both National Opera House, Wexford and Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin.
The chorus of Wide Open Opera and the orchestra of Wexford Festival Opera are conducted by WOO Artistic Director Fergus Sheil. “Fergus Sheil conducted as to the manor born, paced the music with sensitive care, secured near-perfect balances between voices and orchestra, and coaxed from the RTÉ NSO some of the finest playing I’ve ever heard from them in the opera pit” (The Irish Times on Tristan & Isolde).
“Tara Erraught is unquestionably one of the most exciting opera singers of her generation anywhere in the world. When I first met her as a student she was already vocally stunning. Now she has the world at her feet. It’s tremendously exciting to have planned this production with Tara so that Irish opera audiences can finally experience the full effect of Tara in a staged opera production.
Together with Tara we have an amazing roster of vocal talent. Gavan Ring, who appeared with a one-line role in Wide Open Opera’s inaugural Tristan und Isolde in 2012, now has a major career internationally. The role of Figaro – the Barber – is one of his major calling cards and he enjoyed great acclaim in Opera North with this role. Rising US tenor Tyler Nelson is also a major talent with a warm engaging voice and brilliant virtuosity. I’m particularly excited to be working with a dream creative team of Michael Barker-Caven, Jamie Vartan and Sinéad Wallace to create this major opera production in 2016.”
Fergus Sheil, Artistic Director of Wide Open Opera.
The Barber of Seville is considered Rossini’s comic masterpiece – indeed perhaps the finest example of a comic opera ever written. Written in a hurry 200 years ago in 1816, the entire opera was reputedly dashed off in just under three weeks. The overture, which has remained one of Rossini’s best-known pieces, was re-cycled from earlier works.
The story of the opera is set in Seville, where Figaro (the Barber) is an all-round servant / fixer type person. If you have a problem he will solve it. He specialises in relationships, regularly fixing up widows and neglected wives with new lovers.
Rosina is a young, innocent and beautiful girl, but with a big dowry ready to go to whoever marries her. She is under the care of the elderly Dr Bartolo, who plans to marry her himself when she comes of age. However Rosina is captivated by a young student Lindoro, who calls to her balcony every morning and serenades her from the street below. Lindoro is actually the wealthy Count Almaviva in disguise, but he wants Rosina to love him for himself, not for his wealth. The count enlists Figaro (the barber) and with him they conspire to break in and rescue Rosina. Bartolo, meanwhile, enlists the help of Basilio, Rosina’s repulsive music teacher, and Basilio suggests spreading a rumour to discredit the Count.
Figaro proposes that the Count should disguise himself as a drunken soldier, and gives him a letter to say that he must be stationed in Bartolo’s house. Once inside the Count and Rosina can express their love for each other. Bartolo becomes suspicious and the scene escalates into a brawl, attracting the police who intervene, but do not arrest the Count, as they know who he is.
In Act II, the Count returns to Bartolo’s house again, this time disguised as a substitute music teacher for Rosina – who he then gives a singing lesson to. As the hilarious music lesson unfolds Bartolo once again becomes suspicious and later he plants a seed of doubt with Rosina, saying that Lindoro (the Count in disguise as a student) is not sincere, just trying to win Rosina for his master.
Bartolo hurries to get a lawyer to perform the wedding ceremony, but while he is gone, the Count and Figaro return via a ladder and the Count is able to reveal that he is actually a Count, not a student. Both declare their love for each other, and as soon as the lawyer arrives, they quickly marry each other while Bartolo is busy removing the ladder. Love wins in the end!
A native of Dundalk, Ireland, Tara Erraught is a graduate of the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, where she studied, and continues to study, with the acclaimed Royal Opera soprano Veronica Dunne. A resident principal soloist with the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Ms Erraught also works with famed German mezzo-soprano Brigitte Fassbaender. Tara has performed the role of Rosina with Bayerische, Hamburg & Wiener Staatsoper. Hailed as “The Queen of Bel Canto”, her Rossini roles also include Angelina (Cenerentola, Washington National Opera, Bayerische, Hamburg & Wiener Staatsoper). With the Bayerische Staatsoper, Tara has performed the roles of Carlotta (Strauss’s Die Schweigsame Frau, Op. 80,) Christa (Janáček’s The Makropulos Affair), Kathy & Brenda (Poul Rouders’ Selma Jezkova), Despina (having previously sung the role of Dorabella) (Così fan tutte) Prince Orlovsky (Die Fledermaus), Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro), Kathleen Scott (Miroslav Srnka’s South Pole) and Hänsel (Hänsel und Gretel). Tara created and premiered the role of Kitty (Iain Bell’s A Harlot’s Progress, Theater an der Wien), and made her role debut as Octavian (Der Rosenkavalier at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, BBC Proms). Tara’s upcoming appearances include performances for The Kennedy Center’s Ireland centenary celebration in Washington, DC, her role debut as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro for Bayerische Staatsoper and her Salzburg Festival debut in Gounod’s Faust.
Tyler Nelson’s recent engagements include debuts as Le théière/ Le petit vieillard (L’enfant et les sortileges, Utah Symphony & Opera), Alfred (Die Fledermaus, Opera Naples), Trin (La fanciulla del West, Opera Omaha), performances of Handel’s Messiah with Augustana College, Britten Serenade with the Utah Valley Symphony, and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Saginaw Bay Symphony. A frequent performer at the Castleton Festival, Mr Nelson has performed Gonzalve (L’heure espagnole), Male Chorus (Rape of Lucretia), Gherardo and Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi), the Mayor (Albert Herring), Maese Pedro (El retablo del Maese Pedro), Father (7 Deadly Sins), La Rainette (L’enfant et les sortileges), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), and Almaviva (Il barbiere di Siviglia, Castleton Festival and the National Centre for Performing Arts in Beijing, China). Upcoming performances include Ferrando (Così fan tutte, Le Festival Lyrique International de Belle-Île en Mer), soloist in Beethoven’s Mass in C and Mozart’s Vesperae solennes de confessore, Ottavio (Don Giovanni, New Orleans Opera) and a role debut of Belmonte (Die Entführung aus dem Serail , Dayton Opera).
Gavan Ring trained at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and the National Opera Studio, London. For Opera North Gavan has performed the roles of Schaunard (La bohème), Manuel in Falla (La Vida Breve), Jake Wallace (La Fanciulla del West), Figaro (Il barbiere di Siviglia) and Guglielmo (Così fan Tutte), Pluto (Orpheus in the Underworld, Scottish Opera), Morales (Carmen, Glyndebourne Festival Opera), Phoebus (Fairy Queen, Glyndebourne), Lieutenant Gordon (Kevin Puts’ Silent Night, Wexford Festival Opera) Father Philippe (Holst’s The Wandering Scholar, Wexford), Oompa Loompa (Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket, Wexford), Steuermann (Tristan und Isolde for Wide Open Opera) and the roles of Dancaire (Carmen), Cascada (The Merry Widow) and Yamadori (Madama Butterfly) for Lyric Opera Productions. Gavan has recently performed Bach’s St John Passion and Handel’s Messiah with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. Upcoming performances include engagements at Opera North as Novice (Billy Budd), Ping (Turandot), a debut at Opera Holland Park as Dr Falke Die Fledermaus, and recitals at Wigmore Hall, London, including a concert commemorating the events in Ireland in 1916.
For Wide Open Opera, Graeme Danby appeared as The Father in Wake Up Son, a new opera by Brian Irvine as well as Russian Soldier in Raymond Deane’s The Alma Fetish. Graeme has performed the roles of Billy Jackrabbit; Charrington (1984 by Lorin Maazel); Gonzalo (The Tempest by Thomas Adès); Second Armed Man (Die Zauberflöte), Casino Manager (The Gambler) and Sacristano (Tosca) with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. In over 1,000 performances as principal, Graeme’s roles with English National Opera include, Basilio (The Barber of Seville), Collatinus (The Rape of Lucretia), Dulcamara (The Elixir of Love), Quince, Snug (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Pooh-Bah (The Mikado), Ribbing (A Masked Ball), Sacristan (Tosca), Sarastro (The Magic Flute), Pimen (Boris Godunov), Bartolo (The Marriage of Figaro), Elviro (Xerses) and Somnus (Semele). Further international engagements include: Teatro alla Scala Milan (A Dog’s Heart; A Midsummer Night’s Dream); Liceu Barcelona (The Fairy Queen), Salzburg (La clemenza di Tito, Wozzeck); Opera National du Rhin Strasbourg (Ion); Palau Reina Sofia, Valencia (1984); de Vlaamse Opera (Le Nozze di Figaro, Peter Grimes, Semele); and the Los Angeles Philharmonic (Where the Wild Things Are by Oliver Knussen). His recordings include: Lulu, A Masked Ball, The Magic Flute and Salome for Chandos Opera in English; and The Tempest for EMI.
John Molloy studied at the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama in Dublin and at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. He completed his studies at the National Opera Studio in London and was a Major Scholar of the Peter Moores Foundation. John has performed the roles of Kissinger Nixon in China (Wide Open Opera), Alidoro La Cenerentola (Scottish Opera / Opera de Rouen), Guccio Gianni Schicchi (Royal Opera House), Masetto Don Giovanni (English National Opera), Arthur The Lighthouse and Figaro Le Nozze di Figaro (Nationale Reisopera Netherlands), Le Commandeur La Cour de Célimène (Wexford Festival), Angelotti Tosca, Luka The Bear, Banco Macbeth and Dulcamara L’Elisir d’Amore (NI Opera), Raimondo Lucia di Lammermoor (Opera Holland Park), Snug A Midsummer Nights Dream (Opera Ireland), Trinity Moses Mahagonny, Figaro Le Nozze di Figaro, Zuniga Carmen (Opera Theatre Company) Leporello Don Giovanni, Sarastro Die Zauberflöte, Bonze Madama Butterfly (Lyric Opera Productions). Concert performances include Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (Shanghai Opera), Verdi’s Requiem and Mendelssohn St. Paul, (RTÉ Concert Orchestra), Haydn’s Creation (Continuo Rotterdam), Handel’s Messiah (Rheinische Philharmonie Hallé) and Stravinsky’s Renard (London Sinfonietta).
Mary O’Sullivan studied at The DIT Conservatory of Music, The Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and completed her studies at the International Opera Studio, Zürich Opera House. Performing all over the World, she has sung with Opera Ireland, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Opera Theatre Company, Wexford Festival Opera, Scottish Opera, English Touring Opera, Lismore Opera Festival and the Zürich Festspiel. Her operatic roles include Norina (Don Pasquale) Titania (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) Nanetta (Falstaff) Elvira (L’Italiana in Algeri) Miss Wordsworth (Albert Herring) Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro) Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte), Frasquita (Carmen) Zerlina (Don Giovanni) Valencienne (The Merry Widow), several roles in the Scottish Opera Five:15 project including a tour to Cape Town, and the roles of Blonde (Seraglio) and Dorinda (Orlando) also for Scottish Opera. She has most recently performed the roles of Papagena and First Lady (Magic Flute, Opera Theatre Company).
Brendan trained at Cork School of Music where he was awarded the Pro Musica Singer of the Year Award. He continued his studies at the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama and won a scholarship to study at La Monnaie de Munt Opera Studio. He holds a Gold Medal in acting from LAMDA. Among his roles are Conte Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro) Schaunard & Marcello (La bohème) Escamillo & Dancaire (Carmen) Aeneas (Dido and Aeneas) Leporello (Don Giovanni) and Demetrius (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). He has performed with Opera Ireland, Opera Theatre Company, English Touring Opera, Scottish Opera and NI Opera. He made his American début at the Kennedy Center, Washington D.C. with OTC premiering Irish composer Steven Deazley’s opera Bug Off! With Glyndebourne Festival Opera he appeared as Arthur Jones in Billy Budd at both the Festival and the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City. His radio appearances have included broadcasts on RTÉ lyric FM and BBC Radio 3. He sang on the original cast recording of John Gibsons’ Judith and Holofernes singing the title role of Holofernes.
Fergus Sheil is Artistic Director of Wide Open Opera and Opera Theatre Company. With WOO, Fergus conducted the first Irish production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde for over 50 years in 2012 and the Irish premiere of John Adams’ Nixon in China in 2014 as well as world premieres of new operas by Raymond Deane (The Alma Fetish) and Brian Irvine (Things We Throw Away). As artistic director he has delivered co-productions of Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest (with NI Opera) and The Last Hotel by Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh (with Landmark Productions), the latter opening at the 2015 Edinburgh International Festival before appearing in the Dublin Theatre Festival, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and St Ann’s Warehouse, New York, as well as being filmed for Sky Arts. Appointed Artistic Director of Opera Theatre Company in 2013 he has conducted Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore and Verdi’s Rigoletto on tour throughout Ireland and later this year conducts Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a specially commissioned translation by Roddy Doyle at the Dublin Theatre Festival and Cork Opera House. As an orchestral conductor, Fergus has a strong relationship with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra having recently toured the orchestra in major repertoire such as Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 (Choral) and Mahler Symphony No 2 (Resurrection).
Michael was Artistic Director of Ouroboros, Dublin (1995 -2004) and Artistic Director of the Everyman Theatre, Cork (2011 -2014). Opera credits include: L’Amico Fritz (Danish National Opera), Der Vampyr (Cork Opera House), Pagliacci – Irish Times Theatre Award (ITTA) Winner, Best Opera 2012 (Everyman/Cork Operatic), Albert Herring (Mid Wales Opera), Medea (Glimmerglass Opera, New York), The Duenna (English Touring Opera / Royal Opera House), The Mines of Sulphur (by Richard Rodney Bennett) – ITTA Winner, Best Opera 2008, Transformations (by Conrad Susa) – ITTA Winner, Best Opera 2006 (both for Wexford Festival Opera). Theatre credits include Shadowlands (London’s West End – Wyndhams & Novello Theatre), Conservatory (Abbey Theatre), Best Man (Everyman/Project), October, Miss Julie, Alice in Wonderland, Blackbird, The Secret Garden, Dandelions, The Goat (or who is Sylvia?), Skylight (Landmark Productions). Richard II (co-production Abbey/Everyman), Amadeus, Tales from Ovid – ITTA Nominee, Special Judges Award 2002, Macbeth, Richard III – ITTA Nominee, Best Director 2001, Mutabilitie, Anna Karenina – ITTA Nominee, Best Director 1998, Troilus & Cressida, Venus & Adonis, The Fetishist (Ouroborus). Productions for The Gate Theatre, Dublin include Little Women, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Anna Karenina, Play (Barbican/Gate), Old Times, The Shape of Things (ITTA Nominee, Best Director 2002), Therese Raquin.
Jamie Vartan has worked as a theatre / opera designer in Ireland, the UK and Europe, with representations at the Prague Quadrennial 1999, 2007 and 2011, and World Stage Design 2013 (where he won the Best Set Design award). His credits include Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh’s The Last Hotel with Landmark Productions and Wide Open Opera, Walsh’s Misterman for Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival, and subsequently New York and London, for which he won an Irish Times Theatre Award and was nominated for an Evening Standard Award; Bondagers (Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh); Ballyturk (Landmark Productions and GIAF; National Theatre, London); Khandan (Royal Court Theatre, London); Mass Observation (Almeida Theatre, London); The Lost Child Trilogy (David Glass Ensemble); and productions at Nottingham Playhouse and the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. His opera designs include A Village Romeo and Juliet (Wexford Festival Opera; 2013 Irish Times Irish Theatre Award for Best Set Design); La traviata (Malmö); Ariadne auf Naxos (Salzburg); Il pirata (Marseilles); Carmen (Lisbon); The Queen of Spades (Teatro alla Scala, Milan); and productions for The Royal Opera, London; Scottish Opera; Teatro Lirico di Cagliari; Teatro San Carlo, Naples; and in Florence and Parma.
Sinéad graduated from Trinity College in 2004 where she studied Drama and Theatre. She received Irish Times Theatre Awards for Best Lighting in 2010 for Happy Days (Corn Exchnage), in 2009 for Knives in Hens (Landmark Productions) and in 2007 for Saved (Abbey Theatre) and Don Carlos (Rough Magic). Sinéad’s recent lighting designs include Rigoletto (Opera Theatre Company), A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (Corn Exchange), A Tender Thing (Siren Productions), Body and Forgetting (Liz Roche Dance Company). Previous designs include Oedipus, By the Bog of Cats, Christ Deliver Us, La Dispute, The Seafarer, and True West (Abbey Theatre), Miss Julie (Landmark Productions), Ellamenope Jones, Fewer Emergencies, The Public, The Drowned World and The Illusion (Randolf SD | The Company) and The Mental (Little John Nee).