The Barber of Seville at Opera Holland Park


It may not feel much like summer but it really must be – Opera Holland Park’s open-air season has begun. First off and it’s Rossini’s comic masterpiece, The Barber of Seville. We should be drenched in the sunshine of southern Spain but, of course, it’s chilly and every one of OHP’s blankets is snapped up by the audience.

On stage, it’s another matter. And, come to that, in the pit. The City of London Sinfonia fizzes under Charlotte Corderoy’s baton and, with the orchestra still positioned in the midst of proceedings, she engages in the action herself, first avoiding Figaro’s scissors attacking her ponytail and later momentarily handing over the baton to Elgan Llyr Thomas’s Count Almaviva (now in his second disguise, this time as a musician). By this point, we are well into the second half and Thomas has grown from his slightly tentative earlier performance into one that is much more rounded not just in the confidence of his voice but also in his comedic talents – and these are clearly bottomless.

Paul Grant as Figaro, Heather Lowe as Rosina and Elgan Llŷr Thomas as Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville

Almaviva is intent on winning Rosina and saving her from the clutches of her guardian, Doctor Bartolo, who plans to marry her himself and gain not just a wife but a fortune. Bartolo is in Stephen Gadd’s safe musical hands (last year’s OHP fine Rigoletto and back later this season as Sir Richard in Yeomen of the Guard) – here, he’s all tweed and sunburn, the patsy of all the jokes. Rosina herself, artful and feisty in equal measure, is Heather Lowe who excels both at fine coloratura and comic timing.

Director Cecilia Stinton’s flair for comedy starts with the overture when its fff chords wake up the dozing Berta – Janis Kelly makes the most of all the comic business until she finally gets to sing as wonderfully as ever in the second half. There’s the stuffy Don Basilio (Jihoon Kim will later give full rein to his resonant bass) asleep in the fountain; the stage buzzes with orange sellers and musicians, policemen and park benches (there’s some clever choreography here by Bence Kalo).

Into the mayhem, strides Figaro, the show-stealing Paul Grant, having engaged in a bit of banter on his way through the audience first. And then he’s into “Largo al factotum” which receives wild applause from the audience and we’re off into Rossini’s romp. Grant’s Figaro is an affable rogue who guides proceedings with a glint in his eye and a gleefully rotund baritone.

As frothy and fun as a glass of summer fizz.

The Barber of Seville runs at Opera Holland Park until 21st June. For more information, including details of the 2024 season’s productions, and for tickets, please visit