A great operatic Heritage

Heritage Opera presents The Barber of Seville. Stephen Holloway as Don Basilio and Richard Woodall as Doctor Bartolo.

Heritage Opera presents The Barber of Seville. Stephen Holloway as Don Basilio and Richard Woodall as Doctor Bartolo.

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The Barber of Seville Lancaster Grand Theatre

Heritage Opera is approaching its tenth anniversary, and continues to entertain audiences in the North West with its own, world-class productions of classic operatic favourites.

Founded in Preston before moving to their new Manchester base a few years ago, Heritage’s latest Lancaster offering was Rossini’s much-loved comic opera of love, deception and confusion, The Barber of Seville.

This was a wonderful evening’s entertainment, replete with verbal, visual, musical and physical gags more usually
associated with over-the-top knockabout farce and slapstick – which is exactly what the 23 year old composer and his librettist intended.

In her specially created new English translation, director Sarah Helbsy Hughes gave us a pert, pacey version and flexible staging with some wicked gags, corny scenery (a plastic gnome?!) and witty puppetry.

Musical Director Benjamin Cox was equally alert to the sharp musical witticisms (‘I don’t like the New Music’), and along with some really outrageous and camp acting, the result was a riotous, uproarious two and a half hours.

If you think all this was cheap, you should have heard the singing. Using young students as well as more mature professionals accustomed to international opera houses, the result was a beautifully balanced, musical and dramatic tour-de-force of first-rate solo, chorus and ensemble singing.

I saw Rossini’s later melodrama, The Lady of the Lake, broadcast live from Covent Garden earlier in the week.

And the artistry, intimacy and clarity of the Barber team far outshone the expensive, Royal Opera House’s overstaged production by miles.

by Michael Nunn