combines fun and sentiment to perfection

Manchester Evening News 20 July 2005

Rossini’s Barber was booed off stage on its first night because of the established success of this opera – written in 1782 by Giovanni Paisiello.

The later version took over eventually, but you can see why the old one, which inspired Mozart to write his sequel, had its fans. Buxton Festival brought Bampton Classical Opera to perform it, in English and cleverly staged, last night.

Bampton is a lively company, using young singers and not short on entertainment. Director Jeremy Gray – with the supreme advantage of an audience that knows the story before he begins – has brought it into the 1950s and a Hi-de-hi style holiday camp.

It works: there are even a few gags (Gray and Gilly French’s own translation) linking up with the Figaro we know. But many of the attractive features are there because Paisiello did them first.

Best of all, the Rosina is the brilliant young soprano Rebecca Bottone. She has a lovely voice, a superb technique and acting ability which – especially in the act two scene with Adrian Dwyer's Almaviva – combines fun and sentiment to perfection.

Nicholas Merryweather is excellent as Figaro (the role can never be as good as Rossini made him, but you’d hardly know), and Paul Carey Jones enjoys being a Basil Fawlty-style Bartolo.

Paul Hoskins conducts with taste and affection for a score which, as it goes on, with its storm and its inventive ensembles, is surprisingly good.

Robert Beale