Barber of Seville, Mannington

MICHAEL DRAKE A fun evening is always on the enterprising Garden House Opera Company's guarantee label.

MICHAEL DRAKE

A fun evening is always on the enterprising Garden House Opera Company's guarantee label, and director Peter Bridges (who also directed the Chamber Ensemble from the piano) led a production totally audience-focused in playing it for laughs.

Ad libs following interjections by Mannington estate sheep and passing balloons added to its immediacy as the delightful Zoe Todd (Rosina), giving the best projection and flighty both vocally and in character, was pursued by the romantic, light tenor of Declan Kelly as Count Almaviva.

Ian Jarvis is a natural comic but his voice on the night did not quite match the character of Figaro – not the rogue we have come to love but quite over-the-top camp.

Dr Bartollo (Simon Kirkbridge) too had his humorous moments, emphasised by brilliant articulation, while Martin Nelson (Don Brasilio), hiding some of his traditional evil, was vocally outstanding.

In the smaller roles, Berta, the housemaid (Saffron Van Zwanenburgh) had her moments of glory and Frank La Flamme as an arresting policeman and the dopey Ambrosia was a cross between 'Allo, 'Allo and John Cleese.

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It was hugely amusing entertainment – though I have the reservation that it was too far down the scale.

On the other hand, for newcomers to opera, it was quite an introduction.