The Barber of Seville, Lismore Music Festival

Lismore Music Festival had much to contend with at the weekend.

The torrential rain on Saturday night would have led most promoters to cancel an event as ambitious as a new outdoor production of Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in the courtyard at Lismore Castle, but the organisers shielded the audience and most of the performers from the elements with a strategically placed tent. Their courage paid rich dividends: for anyone who loves opera, the production was surely the highlight of the year.

Rossini would surely have approved of the modern touches brought to this most playful of operas. There were cheers when the barber Figaro, played by Irish baritone Owen Gilhooley, arrived on a Vespa scooter, and much laughs when Javier Abreu, playing Count Almaviva, ran out with an umbrella. Damon Nestor Ploumis cannot have been much perturbed by the downpour: as Almaviva’s love rival Dr Bartolo, he was already required to fall face first into the fountain, around which much of the action was played out.

Abreu was a lively performer. His singing was rich and expressive, and he played Almaviva with an infectious energy. The Turkish soprano Pervin Chakar was enchanting as Rosina, and her solo in the ‘singing lesson’ scene was riveting: many wondered how so diminutive a singer could be possessed of so powerful a voice.

A special mention must go to the LMF Chamber Orchestra, whose presence added to the glamour of the production, and whose playing throughout was flawless.

The Lismore Music Festival’s existence is a triumph in these times, and the sold-out production of The Barber of Seville serves to illustrate just how valued a presence it has become in the Irish music calendar.

Marc O’Sullivan

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