On 13. January 2004, I attended my third performance of Il barbiere di Siviglia at San Francisco Opera. This new production is owned by San Francisco Opera, but the stage director, set designer, and dramaturge have all worked at the Stuttgart Opera, and it showed. The set looked very much like a German fantasy of the Barbie Malibu Dream House, the clean white lines, sparse bare rooms. The set was very effective use of space, but, in my (naive) native Southern Californian opinion, was not particularly beautiful. The staging was tiresome at times, it was a little childish, having Rosina play around with her stuffed kangaroo, the Vespa with acrobat, the umbrella that flies away during the storm (the audience cheered every time, naturally), and so forth.
The singing was very solid. Joyce DiDonato (Rosina), her debut to San Francisco in this production last November, was strong. She is a strapping sassy lass, and has a very rich voice. Matthew Polenzani (Count Almaviva) was not bad, his voice is sweet, and his volume is pretty good. Thomas Hampson (Figaro) has a much louder voice than Troy Cook, who sang in the role last Fall. Hampson's movements were not as fluid, nor as dashing, but he had a certain charm. Francesco Corti's conducting was especially shaky in the first overture. All in all though, the whole performance came off rather well.