Rossini was 24 years old when in 1816 he wrote his seventeenth opera and most renowned "buffa", The Barber of Seville, in barely three weeks. The accompanying recording is from the 1988 Schwetzinger Festspiele. The production by Michael Hampe, director of the Cologne Opera at that time, is distinguished by humorous direction of movement which never degenerated into slapstick. It aimed for a high tempo and abandoned the alienation effect to allow for an increasing exuberance in performance by the protagonists. Ezio Frigerios痴 stage settings are equally as appealing to the eye as Mauro Pagano痴 costumes, whose design consciously strengthens the comic impact of the characters. Resounding from the orchestra pit is an exceptionally defined, coherent and graceful performance of Rossini痴 composition. Gabriele Ferro appreciates how to effect subtle differentiations and in so doing strikes an ideal balance between the orchestra and the stage. The choir ensemble is first class, led by an irresistible Cecilia Bartoli.