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Photo: La Fenice


La Fenice, perhaps the most beautiful opera house in the world, fails to live up to expectations in this Venice staging of The Barber of Seville, which, despite a delightful barber and a fine cast of singers, ends up being a bit of a drag.

A rarely unambitious and stagnant set leaves the dust almost untouched on Rossini’s 200-year-old classic.

With its premiere and run perfectly timed for the well-attended Venetian Carnival, tourist-trap opera is a term that lurks in the back of this reviewer’s mind.

The Barber of Seville is among the world’s most performed operas, but let’s be honest and admit that the plot is so light that it needs a good shot of vitamins to make this little comedy, also known as opera buffa, stand the distance over almost four hours in the iconic La Fenice opera house.

The static stage design (we are 90 percent of the time fixated in the living room of the beautiful Rosina and her intolerable guardian Dr. Bartolo) is in dire need of life-giving inventions, as it succeeded so dazzlingly in Rolando Villazón’s magnificent version from the Salzburg Festival 2022 with a great Bartoli in the role of Rosina.

A performance that played so fiercely on all keys that one forgot how little meat there actually is to the story. You can read the enthusiastic five-star review here.

Once we’re done complaining in this fabulous theater space, we let the enthusiasm rain down on Italian charmer Alessandre Loungo, who delivered the most exuberant barber I’ve seen to date.

A gorgeous Italian baritone dressed in a bright red silk baroque outfit, who was just here, there and everywhere to make this whole crazy-colored love cabal come together.

Rosina, in a lovely, lush version by Palermo mezzo Chiara Amaro, was given her Count Almaviva (the well-sung, internationally experienced tenor Antonio Siragusa), strongly flanked by Lucca Dall’Amico as Don Basilio and acclaimed buffa specialist Marco Filippo Romano as Bartolo.

The orchestra was clearly on Rossini’s home turf, delivering a rich, sonorous accompaniment over the top – just the way Italian opera of this ilk should be dispatched.

Right on the beat, as they say – without sloppiness or other careless handling of the fast-paced score.

However, we have to drop down to three stars for a tourist-oriented and overly conformist staging by the traditionalist, Venice-born director Bepi Morasso.

The evening is only just lifted by a convincing team of singers from our own latitudes.


Located in a shady alleyway near the Rialto Bridge, Trattoria alla Madonna is something so rare in Venice as an authentic eatery with simple, terrific food at reasonable prices.

The tourist traps are everywhere, and the restaurants e.g. at the small square around La Fenice opera (Anticco Martini and Al Theatro) can hardly be recommended for much more than Aperol Spritz. (There is nothing wrong with them, but…)

At Madonna I always choose the marinated octopus Polpette, the size of a small fist, cooked, marinated and served with just a little oil and lemon. I don’t see them anywhere else, and was told this time that changing water temperatures in the lagoon have made them a rarer catch than before. The ‘brown’ shrimp are also almost gone. That said, it’s full steam ahead for foodies.

Madonna greets guests with a large refrigerated counter where you can choose from a variety of fresh seafood from the market just around the corner – and have your choice cooked to your liking. 

Part of the show is to peruse the selection with a connoisseur’s eye and chat with the waiters about the best recommendation of the day.

Thus inspired, I ordered some super-fresh scallops, which were just sautéed and served absolutely captivating in their picturesque shells.

The freshly grilled Branzini (sea bass) was impossible to refuse. I chose the contorni (side dish) of steamed spinach with butter, while the calamari fritti followed by uncommonly good ravioli with ricotta/tomato impressed my companion across the table. 

The lemon ice cream that closed the show was the best I’ve ever tasted.

The atmosphere at Madonna is busy, informal and super cozy, despite the fact that many people have gotten to know this gem by now.