This is near perfection. Once again the Teatro dellOpera di Roma, as it did earlier this year with Cos fan tutte, has put together brilliant young singers who really know both how to sing and act, put them into attractive costumes and painted and economical sets, to produce a performance which is about as entertaining as possible.

There is a gag element to the production, centred round the antics of the comic actor, Leo Gullotta, who appears as the impresario putting the show on and in other small non-singing roles, in connivance with the conductor, Gianluigi Gelmetti, who is also responsible for the production. These gags, in the form of comic interludes, initially promise little but annoyance, as they interrupt the overture and delay the start of the opera and indeed the action at one or two points, but all is soon forgiven as the production gets under way and the enthusiasm and general verve of all the participants is revealed.

Seville, exteriors and interiors, is conjured up vividly and economically with the painted sets of Maurizio Varamo, and with the delightful and traditional costumes by Anna Biagiotti.

The orchestra of the Teatro dellOpera fizz absolutely as it should in this score under the expert conducting of Gelmetti, as does the choir under Gea Garatti. As for the singers it is difficult to praise them highly enough.

The Conte dAlmaviva is Raul Gimnez; he is the only exception to the youth of the protagonists, and, although he does at times struggle in the extraordinarily difficult florid arias that Rossini gives him, he manages to conceal his vocal inadequacies with the utmost class and professionalism, while his acting is superb.

Bruno Taddia is a hilarious Don Bartolo wonderful in voice and acting; one begins almost to pity him as his schemes are thwarted one by one and he is left so miserable.

Rosina, Laura Polverelli, is everything one could wish for, slim, attractive, funny, and capable of a dazzling and apparently effortless display of coloratura whenever required. This was singing of a very high order. As was that of Massimiliano Gagliardo as Figaro; he has worked very hard on his acting, and to start with one is afraid he may overdo it, but it works very well, and the voice is spectacular. Natale De Carolis, Don Basilio, was excellent and sang a brilliant La Calunnia aria, and even the two small roles of Fiorello and Berta were performed most classily by Gian Piero Ruggeri and Laura Cherici.

Teatro dellOpera di Roma at the Teatro Nazionale, Via del Viminale 51, Rome, tel. 06 481601 www.opera.roma.it

13 December 2005. Further performances 14 and 15 December 2005