FINALLY, 29 years after its premiere, with its fourth revival, Giles Havergal’s production of Rossini’s comic masterpiece has turned out to be a butterfly after all.

It’s been an awfully long time in the chrysalis. The timing is pretty good, too: next February marks the work’s bicentenary.

Back in 1986, it was a mess, but let’s not go into that. Havergal is fortunately still around to regenerate it, finding something close to self-parody.

He has leant heavily on the lavish talents of Gavan Ring in the title role. Looking and moving much like a younger version of John Cleese in his Fawlty Towers days, Ring leaps or creeps around the stage with the agility of a gymnast and the vocal command of a sergeant-major: his bel canto is both supple and forthright.

Ring is also the only principal entirely at home with Stuart Stratford’s generally rapid tempos. Steering a course between excitement and steadiness in Rossini is never easy, and given this production’s history, Stratford can be forgiven for erring on the fast side.

He drums up anticipation in the overture, but does not always resist driving his singers too hard. As Count Almaviva, Nicholas Watts had a hard time of it in Act 1; after the break, his tenor relaxed and with it his acting.

Katie Bray is a lively Rosina, inclined to be the tough cookie rather than the besotted lover. Her eyes nearly popped out of her head at discovering her student suitor was actually an aristocrat – and wealthy. Her coloratura well weathers the stresses of speed.

York Press:

Gavan Ring as Figaro, Katie Bray as Rosina and Nicholas Watts as Count Almaviva in The Barber Of Seville. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Eric Roberts’s gift for comic timing does not let him down as the senile Dr Bartolo, but he sometimes shouts rather than sings. Despite a ludicrous wig, straight out of commedia dell’arte, Alastair Miles makes an ideal Don Basilio, his bass superbly resonant, his "slander" aria masterly. There is a lively contribution from Victoria Sharp as Bartolo’s housekeeper, Berta.

The play-within-a-play format continues to divide opinions and looks rough at the edges, even superfluous. It makes for a very busy, sometimes distracting, chorus, but at least they now keep still during the overture and show good teamwork elsewhere. With the orchestra on this kind of form, especially the winds, and the best cast it has ever enjoyed, this production has lift-off – at last.

Opera North in The Barber Of Seville, Grand Theatre, Leeds; further performances on October 17, 23, 27 and 29, then on tour until November 19.