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Rossini's Barber takes an unexpected turn

Unexpected Opera is a new group that aims to make opera more accessible and open it up to wider audiences. Nothing new in that, of course, in that every arts organisation would confess to those lofty principles, at least somewhere in its manifesto.

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Unexpected seeks to do this in its launch production, though, by stripping Rossini’s The Barber of Seville of its recitatives, replacing them with specially written dialogue and renaming the whole package The Barber of Saville Row.

Whether they can do this and retain the integrity of the original remains to be seen. With Lyn Binstock as Artistic Director, the company does have something of a track record of success in regular opera.

Binstock was formerly Associate Director at the Royal Opera House, Scottish Opera and English National Opera, Head of Staff Directors at ENO and Artistic Administrator for the Jerwood Young Singers Programme. The Musical Director is Stephen Hose, who has worked with a range of performers including the great soprano Jessye Norman.

The show is adapted from Rossini’s 1816 opera by writers Tim Riley and John Lovat, who set the comedy in 1950s London with a panto dame, stand-up comic, a sing-along and a 4-piece combo. Figaro is a Teddy Boy with more than a touch of Elvis about him.

The company claims that The Barber of Saville Row is “an undaunting introduction to opera for new audiences”, while at the same time offering “a fresh context for connoisseurs.”

The show opens at Croydon’s Warehouse Theatre (next to East Croydon Railway Station) on 1st April (running to the 15th), then plays in Chelmsford and Sevenoaks before a free performance at London’s The Scoop on the south bank in June. Further details at www.unexpectedopera.com

- Simon Thomas


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