The Barber of Seville – back for 2014!

Heritage Opera’s highly-acclaimed 2013 production returns in 2014. See below for details, as well as audience feedback and press reviews for our 2013 tour.

Barber Poster

The next scheduled performance is at the Northumberland Music Festival on 14th November 2014

Reviews of ‘Barber’, spring 2013

“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. Their 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.

That is exactly what the twenty-three year old composer and his librettist intended. Director Sarah Helsby Hughes gave us a pert, pacey translation 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 that 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; the artistry, intimacy and clarity of the Barber team far outshone the expensive, Royal Opera House’s overstaged production by miles.”
Michael Nunn, Lancashire Evening Post

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“Heritage Opera returned to The Civic Hall on Monday with their latest production ‘The Barber of Seville’. The audience were treated to a marvellous comic tale by Rossini of match making and romance. Musical director Ben Cox and director Sarah Helsby Hughes magically brought to life the story of “Rosina” and “Count Almaviva” and the trials they have to overcome to be together.

Stephen John Svanholm gave a strong performance as ‘Figaro’ and Ailsa Mainwaring was delightful as ‘Rosina’. The cast were outstanding. The sound of the singing was breathtaking. I found myself thinking, ‘How do they do that?’

I don’t know much about the classics, but the joy of watching a production by Heritage Opera means you are guaranteed a well produced performance and amazing music. You’ll leave wishing you had learnt to sing.”
Claire Faulkner, Nantwich News

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“So much of opera is about fantasy with ridiculous characters, in absurd situations with the most preposterous of plots. This Rossini evergreen opera buffa The Barber of Seville has several unbelievable aspects – none more incredible than Rossini managing to compose the score to what is one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy, evidently in just three weeks. And how unbelievable it seems today that it was received so poorly at its première with the audience heckling and booing. Also astonishing is how the Heritage Opera company keep managing to stage productions which are so incredibly entertaining over and over again.

Directed by the talented Sarah Helsby Hughes, Heritage Opera’s production of The Barber of Seville was given in a brand new English translation. The cast was accompanied by a five piece instrumental ensemble directed by assured music director Benjamin Cox. Very simple yet vividly colourful the set looked perfect for the Lowther Pavilion stage and was tastefully lit throughout. I am always delighted by the fine detail that the company employ so cleverly such as paying the musicians with gold money that they tested with their teeth and, discovering it was chocolate money, began eating it.

First main character on the stage was game company stalwart Nicolas Sales. In his disguise as poor student Lindoro he was serenading outside Rosina’s window singing his appealing cavatina Ecco, ridente in cielo (The beautiful dawn is breaking). His bright lyrical tenor boasted clarity and as usual he made a considerable impact in his well characterised part as Count Almaviva. Perfect as Rosina was the attractive Melanie Lodge with her striking luminous eyes. Despite a rather tentative start she was captivating throughout, sketching a suitably vulnerable character using the purity of her mezzo-soprano voice to entrancing effect.

Baritone Stephen John Svanholm was straight into his role as the crafty Figaro, the Barber of Seville, exuding a natural confidence with a fine stage presence. Who could fail to love the Barber’s patter aria Largo al factotum (Make way for the factotum) delivered so splendidly by Svanholm. It took me quite a while to warm to Richard Woodall’s portrayal of the fulsome Dr. Bartolo. Looking a touch nervous the bass-baritone soon steadied to display a rich tone, settling satisfyingly into the role he made for himself as an essentially self-deluded buffoon. The first thing I noticed about Stephen Holloway was his formidable bearing that was made for the part of Don Basilio. His opulent bass with its rock steady, mahogany-like tone projected splendidly through the hall.

Heritage Opera’s production of The Barber of Seville was a sheer delight entertaining their Lytham audience royally. If you haven’t seen this opera company, remedy the situation and make sure you don’t miss out on the enjoyment of their next production.”
Michael Cookson, Seen and Heard International.com

Some Audience Feedback form ‘Barber’, spring 2013

“Please tell everyone that last night’s performance was FABULOUS – my friend who came with us has never been to an opera before and she loved it too – the singing was superb, as was the acting, set, accompaniment – fantastic!” – TD, Nantwich

“Really enjoyed the show on Monday night and so did everyone else it seems. Very clever and good fun, great performances from everyone” – IG, Nantwich

“Very funny. Great singing. Lovely costumes, esp very impressed with the pink and the yellow shoes. Brilliant. Looking forward to the next one” –CG, Lancaster

“Very much enjoyed Saturday’s performance and St George’s Hall was a superb venue. We thought the Heritage newcomers Ailsa Mainwaring and Stephen Svanholm had enormous stage presence and that they and Nick Sales and Richard Woodall appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. And beautiful singing as well of course. It was a real treat” – Dr AH, Liverpool

“What a wonderful show last night Sarah, we all thoroughly enjoyed the whole presentation…
what a great cast everyone displayed wonderful characterisations…”
– BW, Liverpool

“We thought we would just send a few words to say how much we enjoyed the performance last night at St. Georges Hall. From start to finish it was most enjoyable, and Sarah’s direction was inspired. The overall production, singers, setting, direction and musicians was one of the best performance we have seen from the company. Thanks to all, and best wishes for future productions” – F & J Q, Liverpool

“Having missed you in Lancaster, caught up with you in Liverpool last night. Congratulations! Brilliant performance, very funny, loved the set. What an amazing venue! Rosina’s house would look good in my garden, just the right colour. You never cease to delight. Thank you all so much.” – LL, Liverpool

“Wonderful show, well produced and very enjoyable.” – SS, Liverpool