Wednesday, 10 August 2011

August Opera Challenge Day Ten: Best Comedy Opera

I was tempted to choose Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, but really, when you think of the words 'comedy opera', it's Rossini that springs to mind. I'm picking his Il barbiere di Siviglia, the archetypal opera buffa, in which the young Count Almaviva disguises himself as a poor student named Lindoro to win the affections of the beautiful Rosina, who is kept prisoner by her guardian Dr. Bartolo. With the help of Figaro (his former servant) and by way of some very silly japes, he pulls it off and they all live happily ever after.

It's pretty much a laugh a minute, but I'm not just talking about the plot. Rossini's instantly recognisable tunes have the ability to make you chuckle as much as the libretto or the action that is taking place on stage do. Take the overture for example. It begins conventionally enough before moving into that very famous dramatic flourish, but by the half way point I always find it hard to suppress a giggle. His musical turn of phrase sounds almost sarcastic to me at times, and if you're inclined to have a bit of a dance to operatic overtures (and I'm not saying I am, honestly...) then you will be hard pressed not to bust a move that looks specifically designed to make others laugh. And what about Largo al factotum- surely one of the most hilarious arias of all time? And how can you not crack a smile at Una voce poco fa? I'm going for Dunque io son, though. It's one of my favourite operatic duets, and it gives me the opportunity to watch lovely Joyce DiDonato pair up with Pietro Spagnoli, who is one of my favourite singers and should, in my opinion, be a lot more famous than he is.

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