Saturday, October 14, 2006

I Went to the Barber of Seville, And Didn't Even Get a Lousy Haircut

I needed to get a haircut, so this evening I went to a little hairdressers on Collins Street called The Barber of Seville. Sure, there were a lot of people there, but the haircut apparently only cost twenty dollars, and that's good for this city.
When I got inside the Barbers, the place was absolutely crowded. They had several rows of seats, some on the top level and some on the bottom level, and I couldn't tell how the hairdresser was going to get around to all these people before the night was out. Besides, most of the people looked as if they'd already had their hair cut, and shampooed, and combed, and dried, before coming to the Barbers. What the hell kind of avant-garde hairdressers was this anyway, where the customers got their hair cut before coming to the Barbers? I started to feel pretty uncomfortable; I don't like these newfangled hairdressing salons much. You never know what's expected of you.
Just as I was looking around at all the people crowded around me, I noticed right in front of the seats was a stage and orchestra that were tuning up. And heck, while their hair looked a bit more dishevelled and in need of cutting, it was nowhere near the same level of dishevellement as my hair, which is never naturally shevelled anyway. But I was pretty much blown away by the fact that this 'Barber of Seville' had a freaking orchestra.

Anyway, after about ten minutes of me looking around, a pair of red curtains that had been fallen down on the stage were raised, and the orchestra started noodling away on the most divine piece of muzak it has ever been my misfortune to hear. (And just between you and me, let me tell you that I've had much worse misfortunes than this orchestra). A guy in a suit walked on stage and for no reason at all, started singing to the wall. I noticed that he didn't have much hair on his head. Actually, he was positively bald. Well, I thought, that can't be a bad sign; shows this Barber (whoever he may be) was pretty thorough.
So the orchestra (and I still hadn't worked out why the heck they were there) were vamping away pretty nicely; and one or two other characters came on stage, though I didn't really get much of a look at their hair at first, because most of them were wearing big hats. I got a bit distracted at this point by the orchestra, because the cellos started getting out of time, and the violins (for once) started getting in time. It was pretty strange having a Barber hire an orchestra in the first place, but a third-rate orchestra? I mean, if you're going to get a symphony orchestra for NO FREAKING REASON AT ALL and put it in the middle of your late-night hairdressing salon, why not hang the expense and get the Vienna Philharmonic?

After a little while, a couple of women started coming on stage. I can't say I'm an expert in women's hairstyles, but they seemed to be done pretty well; the younger of them had a perm, and the older had it done up in a kind of bun. Fair enough, I thought; this Barber is a unisex kind of guy. Just so long as he gets around to doing my hair at some point.
At which point, the Barber actually did come on. Finally, I thought; at last, we're going to get some hair-cutting action around here. Nope; apparently not. For some bizarre reason - perhaps it was something in the air tonight, perhaps it was merely a momentary fit of insanity that came this Barber guy at the same time every night - he decided to join in the singing. And what a singer he was! He carolled on for, seemingly, ages about none other but himself!

It was at this point that I have to admit, my heart broke; I despaired of ever getting my hair cut. I still don't quite know what it was that kept me there. Maybe it was out of a stubborn desire, having paid my twenty dollars to get my hair cut, to stay until the end, and perhaps assault the Barber afterwards for a job badly done. Or maybe it was because some of the music was actually quite pleasant.


All in all, I have to say, this was one of my more unpleasant hairdressing experiences. Out of a rating system of five snips, five being perfect, no snips being terrible, I'd have to give this particular Barber two snips. He did actually make an appearance and some of the music was nicely done, although I'm not a fan of the avant garde hairdressing experience as a whole. I probably wouldn't go again, that is, unless a really big singer hairdresser like Michigan J Frog performed cut hair there at some point in the future.

Next time, I think I'll stick to the Coburg hairdressers. Or maybe I'll give that new Spanish salon in St Kilda a go. It's called 'Un Salon Andalou', it's run by a very well-known hairdresser called Dali, and apparently only the occasional eyeball gets sliced in the way of a trim and a shave ...

HAIRDRESSER NAME: The Barber of Seville
LOCATION: Athaneum Theatre, Collins Street
RATING: Two snips out of five.

UPDATE! - Slightly more serious review in comments.


TimT said...


Damn, the tenor in the main role was crap! He couldn't hold a note, and about one scene in, when he's supposed to give a nice little solo aria to his lady love, the tune absolutely fell to pieces - almost ruined the evening. Decent performance by Figaro, though.

The orchestra could hardly keep in time with the singers, much less themselves.

This was an English language version. The translation was pretty poor, and there were one or two bizarre topical gags which kind of fell flat (all of a sudden, for instance, the orchestra burst into dischordant music by 20th century composer Stravinsky). Strange, because the direction was so unimaginative and conventional in other ways. Heck, if they'd wanted to get a couple of cheap gags, they could always have chucked in a couple of fart jokes and had an amusing scene with poodles, or something (old stage convention - see Shakespeare in Love). It's not that difficult!

I read on the program that the 'Melbourne Opera Company' have two reasons for existing. The first is to bring affordable opera to the people, the second is to provide opportunities for young people trained in Victoria to work alongside professionals from Victoria. If you ask me, if they want to be a long-lasting company, they have to ignore that second one. A theatrical company CAN'T afford to be a welfare agency for out of work singers or performers or stage hands or for students. There's just not enough money involved. They HAVE to focus, all the time, on getting the audience numbers in, staying above board, growing, getting sponsors, and getting money reserves so they can afford to branch out into more adventurous productions. If there's one thing that stuffs up the Australian artistic scene more than anything else, it's the stupid 'We have a right to other people's money' mentality held by Australian artists. They don't have a right to money: they have to earn it.

This was worth seeing - or, rather, hearing - for Rossini's hilarious music, which has some great pisstakes of early 18th century music, and is really some of the most fun classical music ever written.

Oh, and I hate to say this, but - the Hunter Opera Company, which operates in Newcastle and Port Macquarie and Maitland - could blow the Melbourne Opera Company out of the water. They are better.

Anonymous said...

not a fan of opera.

TimT said...

Oh, it's GREAT. Though admittedly, it hasn't been the same since Michigan J. Frog, above, quit the scene ...

Caz said...

I saw Carmen a few months ago, and thought it wonderful. Had no idea that all those tunes, of which I was at least vaguely familiar, came from an opera, and that one in particular.

The guy from Seville in Carmen was almost bald too. It must be something in the Sevillian water.

TimT said...

Carmen's a good 'un.

I remember once when my parents took my brothers and myself to see 'The Tales of Hoffman' at the Sydney Opera House as kids. We were incredibly bored and in about the fourth act, the singers drew swords on one another, and we immediately sat up. Yeah! we thought. There's going to be a sword fight!

Then the singers started circling around one another and making weird dance like motions, and five seconds later, they were done. We were INCREDIBLY disappointed. THAT was the sword fight? Damn! We gave Mum hell about it afterwards.

I hear in Carmen they have bullfighting or similar. That must have been fun ...

Caz said...

Well, the bull fighting scene, which comes right at the end, amounts to the outside of stadium that contains the actual bull fighting being the stage set for the last scene.

The drama, and ending, occurs before Carmen, or the audience, gets a chance to see any bulls or bull fighting.

Didn't realise until now that I had been short-changed!

Suppose it must be difficult to get bulls to tra la la though, or to flounce about in rythm.

TimT said...

The best use of animals in an opera has to be the elephants in Aida. I think the libretto calls for a whole circus parade of them to come on stage. Imagine the cost of that nowadays! But what a spectacle! And how could you be sure that the elephants wouldn't be driven WILD with fury by the crashing cymbals and rush the audience?

On the whole, I think we're about due for another performance of Aida, with elephants-plus. I really do.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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