Fígaro, barbero de Sevilla

The Dutch National Ballet has definitely spoiled us. We have become accustomed to its lush and lavish productions, its monumental stage sets and elaborate costumes. It is important to remember they are the outlier, especially when watching more modest ballet productions like the comical ballet Fígaro, the Barber of Seville by the Spanish dance company Ibérica de Danza, which had its Dutch premiere on 7 November at Stadstheater en Cultuurcentrum De Kom in Nieuwegein.

It has been more than 25 years since Manuel Segovia and Violeta Ruiz del Valle started the company, and it is still going strong. Last year, for their 25th anniversary, they made Fígaro, barbero de Sevilla (Fígaro, Barber of Seville), a comical ballet in four acts. Fígaro is one of those canonical pieces where the music is known better than the story that inspired it (Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell could be seen as another). The music Giaochino Rossini made in 1816 may be the most well-known (Figaro. Figaro. Fiiiiiigaaroooooo!), followed closely by Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (1786).

But these operas were all inspired by a trilogy of plays, written by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais. Common denominator in all the plays is Fígaro, the barber of – you guessed it – Seville.

In the first two acts of Fígaro the ballet version, by choreographer and artistic director Segovia, Fígaro (José Alarcón) plays second fiddle to count Almaviva (Sergio Suárez). Almaviva has fallen hard for the lovely Rosina (Cristina Cazorla); she herself is not unreceptive. Unfortunately for Almaviva, Bartolo (Jaime Puente), Rosina’s guardian and tutor, watches her like a hawk. Comical complications ensue.

Fígaro features an eclectic collection of music. Of course, there is the music by Mozart and Rossini, and also Giovanni Paisiello (who composed his own opera version of The Barber of Seville in 1782), but the soundtrack also includes music by Italian cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini, who is most famous for his chamber concertos, and by Santiago de Murcia, a Spanish guitarist and composer who lived from 1673 to 1739. The choreography by Segovia – with help from Sara Calero and Sara Cano – follows the same eclectic style, mixing more classical ballet moves with flamenco, Spanish folk dancing and elements of commedia dell’arte. And it works!

A group dance may start off very highbrow and baroque, and then suddenly incorporate sharp hip movements that would probably have raised some eyebrows in court. One of the best examples of mixing and matching comes in the third act with another ensemble piece that sees the group, bunched together, making small knee-jerking motions to the beats of one of the most famous phrases from Rossini’s overture to the Barber of Seville. The company also has some truly charismatic dancers. Cazorla commands the stage wherever she goes, Alarcón has a strong solo in the third act, twirling, high kicking and stamping the ground as if his life depended on it.

As a travelling production with an ensemble of twelve dancers, its scale is a bit humbler, less ostentatious. The music is on tape, there are digital projections that have to transport the viewer to Madrid, Sevilla and Vienna. There are some puzzling wardrobe choices (costume designer Isabel Cámara is really fond of tufts of white tulle), and some probably unintended comical moments (Almaviva entering like count Dracula, obscuring his face with his cape, as if he were protecting himself from the sun – or Rosina’s radiance). Towards the end the plot even almost completely forgets the plight of its central star-struck lovers, Almaviva and Rosina: Fígaro finds love (Lucía Martínez) and gets married instead. But it is hard not to be won over by the enthusiasm of the dancers and their brisk pace (the show clocks in at just under ninety minutes) – even though Fígaro doesn’t do any barbering at all.

Fígaro offers comforting and unpretentious entertainment, the perfect accompaniment to a chilly November night.

Seen: November 7, stadstheater en kunstencentrum De Kom, Nieuwegein.


Photo: Arco Visuales.

Choreography: Manuel Segovia | direction: Ignacio Garcia | dance: Ibérica de Danza I music: Mozart, Rossini, Bocherini and the Ibérica Ensemble.