Opera Scotland

Barbiere di Siviglia 1960Sadler's Wells Opera

Read more about the opera Barber of Seville

In the 1960s the Sadler’s Wells company produced a series of Rossini operas, of which this Barber was the second, following Cinderella. It opened at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham on 3 October 1960, the week before this short Scottish tour. A successful and popular staging, it remained in the repertoire at the Coliseum until 1977, with the inimitable Eric Shilling still playing Bartolo. The other, less common, Rossini works which followed it were Count Ory, The Thieving Magpie, and The Italian Girl in Algiers, all of which were brought to Scotland in due course, which may explain why Scottish Opera did not stage a full-scale Rossini work until the end of 1969.

The sets and costumes were completely traditional, and worked well. The only eccentricity, which had been common practice in earlier years, when The Barber was the only Rossini opera in the general repertoire, was to divide the first act into two with an interval. The first act is long, but well-paced, and it would nowadays be unacceptable to split it.

 

Press Opinion - Dundee

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Thursday, October 27, 1960

New look for “The Barber of Seville”

'The Gaumont Theatre, Dundee, rang with applause last night after a brilliant performance of The Barber of Seville by the Sadler’s Wells Opera to a crowded house.  It was one of those evenings that go like a flash when one’s ideal of perfection is realised.  This new production, yet to be staged in London, is of international standard - the best of many Barbers I have seen dating back to the twenties.

'The principal delights were in the fine cast assembled for the redressed and rethought comic favourite.  Each principal was not only exactly right in vocal calibre, but the characterisations were superb.  The producer (Douglas Craig) had devised many new touches to superimpose on tradition - for example, the tableau and crowd influx effect in the turmoil ending of Act II.  The singers were fluent in ironic by-plays, which brought appreciative chuckles between the broader smiles.  The gaiety increased like Rossini’s famous crescendos.  To the orchestra, precise and delicate under James Robertson’s direction, went credit for a lot of the pleasure.  The strings were admirable in tone, and the wood-wind phrases piquantly pointed.

'Rossini had the reputation of being willing and able to set even a laundry list to music.  His fertile invention took on a refreshed sheen last night, as the well-known arias and concerted pieces were delivered with polish.  The palm went, I thought, to the Act III trio between Figaro, Rosina and the Count as they were about to escape by the window - delicious singing this.  Personable John Heddle Nash, as Figaro, presented a barber markedly more sophisticated than when he previously sang the part here with the Carl Rosa.  It was a subtle characterisation, suavely ironic, and gently mocking.  His baritone was smooth and agile, velvety rather than stentorian, and very practised in the famous factotum song.  One could easily detect in his higher register a startling resemblance to the characteristic tone quality of his father Heddle Nash, the well-known tenor.

'Catherine Wilson, a mezzo-soprano who, for once, could cope with the full detail of the coloratura demanded of Rosina, made an outstanding impression.  She had a captivating style, combining looks, archness, and warmth of personality.  The same proficiency in the florid music came from Kevin Miller, whose Count Almaviva sounded immaculate right from the early, ravishing tenor serenades.

'Eric Shilling’s Doctor Bartolo excelled in bravura singing, and was a well-studied comedy role, shorn of some of the usual exaggerations, but not suffering thereby.  Stanislav Pieczora, the Polish bass, on the other hand, brought a fascinating sense of the grotesque, as well as a fine voice, to the scoundrelly music master, Don Basilio.  And Sheila Rex was a delightful Marcellina.'

 

Dundee Evening Telegraph: Thursday, October 27, 1960

Too Forte for Figaro

'In last night’s Barber of Seville by the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company at Dundee each member of the cast made a special contribution to a charming performance.  The comic possibilities of the part of Count Almaviva were strongly brought out by Kevin Miller.  Not only is he one of the best lyrical tenors for some time, he is also a master of comedy, dominating the stage whenever he appears.

'John Heddle Nash’s Figaro had an air of infectious light-heartedness no audience could have resisted.  Even his excellent diction, however, could not altogether save him from the overpowering orchestral accompaniment in his famous first-act aria.  The orchestra tended to be too loud for many of the singers.

'Catherine Wilson (Rosina), although a little hard in her early scenes, soon developed into the charmingly petulant creature one expects.  She sang the endless graces and embellishments of Rossini’s score with an easy elegance.

'Dr Bartolo, as portrayed by Eric Shilling, acquired a dignity which was a refreshing change from the doddering senility with which many actors invest the part.  He was still exceedingly funny.  By the strength of his acting and singing he made Bartolo someone to be reckoned with.

'What a joy it was to hear the glorious bass voice of Stanislav Pieczora again.  His brilliant singing of the “Slander” song will haunt one long after the company has bidden farewell.  There was a typically polished performance from Sheila Rex as Marcellina.  The evening’s conductor was James Robertson.'

 

Sadler's Wells Opera's Scottish Tours - 1960

Sadler's Wells Opera made two visits in 1960.  In spring there were three weeks - Edinburgh (King's) followed by Aberdeen (His Majesty's) and Glasgow (Empire).  In October a week in Glasgow (Empire) was followed by a week in Dundee (Gaumont).

The ten operas performed on thess tours were:  Mozart (Don Giovanni);  Rossini (Barber of Seville,  Cinderella);  Wagner (Tannhäuser);  J Strauss (Fledermaus);  Puccini (Bohème,  Madam Butterfly);  Humperdinck (Hansel and Gretel);  Giordano (Andrea Chénier);  German (Merrie England).

Edinburgh, w/c 29 February:  Mon 29 Fledermaus;  Tue 1 Mar Cinderella;  Wed 2 Tannhäuser;  Thu 3 Don Giovanni;  Fri 4 Cinderella;  Sat 5 m Fledermaus;  Sat 5 e Bohème.

Aberdeen, w/c 7 March:  Mon 7 Fledermaus;  Tue 8 Don Giovanni;  Wed 9 Cinderella;  Thu 10 Bohème;  Fri 11 Tannhäuser;  Sat 12 m Fledermaus;  Sat 12 e Cinderella.

Glasgow, w/c 14 March:  Mon 14 Cinderella;  Tue 15 Tannhäuser;  Wed 16 Bohème;  Thu 17 Fledermaus;  Fri 18 Don Giovanni;  Sat 19 m Fledermaus;  Sat 19 e Cinderella.

Glasgow, w/c 17 October:  Mon 17 Barber of Seville;  Tue 18 Andrea Chénier;  Wed 19 Merrie England;  Thu 20 Barber of Seville;  Fri 21 Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 22 m Merrie England;  Sat 22 e Madam Butterfly.

Dundee, w/c 24 October:  Mon 24 Merrie England;  Tue 25 Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 26 Barber of Seville;  Thu 27 Madam Butterfly;  Fri 28 Andrea Chénier;  Sat 29 m Barber of Seville;  Sat 29 e Merrie England.

Performance Cast

Fiorello servant of the Count

Peter Tracey

Count Almaviva

Kevin Miller

Figaro a barber

John Heddle Nash (Oct 26)

Julian Moyle (Oct 29)

Rosina Bartolo's ward

Catherine Wilson

Bartolo a doctor, Rosina's guardian

Eric Shilling

Ambrogio Bartolo's servant

Valerio Martinez

Berta Bartolo's housekeeper

Sheila Rex

Don Basilio a singing teacher

Stanislav Pieczora

Officer

Alfred Oldridge

Notary

James Higgins

Alcalde Mayor

William McGovern

Performance DatesBarbiere di Siviglia 1960

Map List

Empire Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

17 Oct, 19.00 20 Oct, 19.00

King's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

26 Oct, 19.00 29 Oct, 14.30

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