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It helps of course that in Toby Spence (Count Almaviva), Joyce DiDonato (Rosina), and George Petean (Figaro), Leiser and Caurier had three talented singers who could combine a flair for Rossini's elaborate fioriture with a flair for comedy. Despite the physical nature of the production, we never lost sight of Rosina and Almaviva as people. Bruno Praticò's Doctor Bartolo was dressed in the sort of romantic, floppy clothes suitable for Don Pasquale, but still managed to combine a brilliant comic presence with a feeling for the essential pathos of an old man trying to wed a younger girl. Praticò also let us see Bartolo's nastier side when dealing with Rosina; he neatly trod a fine line between comedic and disturbing.
Rosina (Joyce DiDonata), Don Bartolo (Bruno Praticò), Count Almaviva (Toby Spence) and Figaro (George Petean). Photo © Bill Cooper
Neither DiDonato nor Spence have typically Italianate voices but they each sang with power and a wonderful flexibility. Both singers have experience in the baroque repertoire and this meant that I have rarely heard Rossini's fioriture sung so cleanly or so expressively. I have a preference for the darker, Italianate mezzo-soprano in these roles (eg Conchita Supervia) but DiDonato certainly convinced me that her own approach worked just as well.
Copyright © 16 January 2006
Robert Hugill, London UK