A Madcap "Prince Of Seville" Tickles Seattle Opera

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John Moore as Figaro.jpg

John Moore as Figaro, Seattle Opera photo © Philip Newton

Purple jumpsuit for the barber, Figaro, check. Flowing locks, check. Elvis wig for Dr. Bartolo, check. Passing references to Elton John, to a chorus line of Kingston Trio types in red blazers, and so on. Gioachino Rossini composed all this (and more) before his 25th birthday; Barber has all the exuberance of youth, not to mention the Down-Under irreverence of its director and designer.

The bel canto music lends itself to comedy, sometimes at its peril. Certainly there's no more needlessly wacky number than "Mi par d'esser con la testa" at the end of Act One. Seattle's own burlesque star Waxie Moon (real name: Marc Kenison) turns up in pink, dancing a jig, at the final curtain. Check, please! The assorted onstage antics were created by the Australian stage director Lindy Hume. Her artistic colleague, New Zealander Tracy Grant Lord, designed the production, which was imported from Queensland Opera in Brisbane and moves on next year to New Zealand Opera.

As almost always happens in screwball comedy, the voice of reason is given to the housemaid, sung here by Margaret Gawrsiak, and played as a lovesick shlub until she's rescued by Waxie Moon.

The principal plot (such as it is) involves the feisty young Rosina, in love with dashing Count Almaviva but shackled by her lecherous old guardian, Dr. Bartolo. Plenty of familiar music: Figaro's "Largo al factotum" by John Moore, proclaims himself a tireless jack-of-all-trades; Sabina Pertolas's "Una voce poco fa;" Don Basilio's scheming "La Calumnia" (shades of the alt-right smear campaigns), not to mention the nutso Act One closer.

Only Matthew Grills as Count Almaviva disappointed; his thin tenor falls short of the standard created by Lawrence Brownlee, who sang the role here six seasons ago. What we had then was the opera's original conclusion: the aristocratic Almaviva dressing down the scheming Bartolo for his treatment of poor Rosina. Rossini recycled the music at the end of La Cenerentola as "Non più mesta"--no more housework! It's not a funny bit, though, so just as well the aria was cut in this production.

In the end, of course, love conquers all. Waxie Moon gets it on with Berta, the housemaid. Almaviva weds Rosina. The villainous Dr. Bartolo sputters and fumes while Figaro bounces off to his next adventure. It's an opera without a mean bone in its body, The Barber of Silly, perhaps, or Civility, if you prefer.

Hey, the erudite Melinda Bargreen's review is here, though it may require a double-barreled assault on the Seattle Times pay wall.

Seattle Opera presents The Barber of Seville through October 28th.

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on October 15, 2017 11:00 AM.

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