Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Opera San José's Il Barbiere di Siviglia

OSJBarber_6872_PhotoBy_DavidAllen-scaled* Notes *
Il barbiere di Siviglia opened at Opera San José last Saturday, but I attended the matinée on Sunday. The performance was a cartoonish delight with lots of pleasant singing.

In his Opera San José debut Stephen Lawless directed this new production, which might not have had the best sense of space but was a lot of fun.

It was unclear if we were on the ground floor (pictured, photograph by David Allen) or if we were a level up, as there was a door downstage that was supposedly to the outside but there was also a balcony on that same level upstage. But I did like the liveliness of the production, the walls that didn't behave and stay put, the four flamenco dancers that would dramatically appear for really no reason except that the action takes place in Seville. The storm scene had a dream sequence in it, which was novel and effective.

Rossini's music is always enjoyable and the singers did a fine job. Mezzo-soprano Courtney Miller was a long-suffering and oddly endearing Berta and bass-baritone Vartan Gabrielian was an especially creepy and greedy Basilio. Bass-baritone Joshua Hughes (Fiorello) sounded bright and robust, as did baritone Michael Kuo (Officer). Everyone was clearly characterized and acted very well,

Likewise the leads were all strong. Bass-baritone Dale Travis is always reliable, his Bartolo is very funny. Nikola Adele Printz is charming as Rosina, their clean, brilliant sound is not that of a coloratura mezzo-soprano, but they were able to work with their voice to give a splendidly resonant performance. Tenor Joshua Sanders is also very solid as Count Almaviva, his plaintive voice sounds strong from top to bottom. Baritone Ricardo José Rivera is a very loud and lovable Figaro, but his voice is pretty and he seemed all smiles.

*Tattling *
In the middle of Act I there were a lot of barking coming from backstage but we never saw dogs in the production. I was very impressed by how the service dog that seems to always be at afternoon performances at this opera house maintained their cool and did not make a single sound at all.

There was some light talking, I did hear a cellular phone ring once, and lots of cellophane noise at certain points.

SF Opera's Il barbiere di Siviglia

_B5A2612* Notes * 
A revival of Emilio Sagi's busy production of Il barbiere di Siviglia (Act II pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) returned to San Francisco Opera after only two years. The proceedings last night did not come into focus until the finale of Act I, but the result was a definitive success, unlike much of what has gone on this season.

The director this time around is Roy Rallo, but the production was fairly close to Sagi's original work. One such subtle change was the guitar in the serenade was given to someone in the orchestra pit rather than being played by Almaviva. Llorenc Corbella's set is great for changing the scenes but it is hard to tell what is inside and what is outside, it is a platform with a few walls on the left side of the stage. Objects and people can enter and exit from under the platform, but this often felt a bit random, as during Don Basilio's La Calunnia aria, when a white curtain noisily appears under the platform and is blown across the right side of the stage. The main part of the set is also quite white, as are many of the costumes, so the end, which has lots of bright shawls, mylar balloons, cotton candy, confetti, and firework projections, is a happy contrast.

Maestro Giuseppe Finzi had the lively orchestra going at a fast clip and there were times were rather loud, especially during Act I. It was difficult to hear "Largo al factotum," even though Lucas Meachem (Figaro) ordinarily has a strapping sound. Meachem occasionally sounded out of breath, but he is a fine actor and is funny. Daniela Mack is a cheeky, charming Rosina. Her voice is not to my taste for some reason, something about her vibrato and the resonances of her sound, but she is competent and again, acts well. René Barbera is a wonderful Almaviva, his bright voice has a beautiful consistency from top to bottom. His coloratura is gorgeous.

Everyone sang nicely together, and the ensembles were a joy. The supporting cast is solid. Alessandro Corbelli is always impressive as Doctor Bartolo, his patter is excellent. Catherine Cook is a delight as Berta, as is Andrea Silvestrelli as Don Basilio.

* Tattling * 
The balcony was full for the night before Thanksgiving performance. There was some talking from old and young alike, but the audience seemed engaged and interested.

SF Opera's Barbiere (Shrader, Muraro, Iversen, Mack)

Sf-opera-barbiere-act2-balloons-2013* Notes * 
San Francisco Opera gave a second performance of Il barbiere di Siviglia (Finale of Act II pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) this season with four different principal singers yesterday night. Emilio Sagi's direction is funny but has som much going on at all times. There is an incredible amount of choreography and the corps de ballet is kept quite occupied.

While much of the staging for the different singers remained the same, the difference between the singing was significant. Maurizio Muraro (Doctor Bartolo) has a lot of volume. Audun Iversen is a brash, amusing Figaro. Daniela Mack is a sassy Rosina. Her "Una voce poco fa" had much verve, but there were times when she was slightly harsh. Alek Shrader is elegant as Almaviva. His voice does sound pinched at the top, but his coloratura is deft. They all sang very nicely together and the trio "Ah! qual colpo inaspettato!" was especially charming.

* Tattling * 
Standing room attendance was even more sparse than the first night, I purchased my ticket at 6:30pm and had Standing Room Ticket 9. The attendance in the Balcony Level, as far as seating, included quite a few people, many were apparently opera novices. The four people in Row L 108-114 talked a great deal.

There were many late-comers. An elderly couple had a loud discussion on such important topics such as finding their glasses and using the lavatory during much of Act I.

SF Opera's Barbiere (Camarena, Corbelli, Meachem, Leonard)

Sf-opera-barbiere-act2-2013* Notes * 
Last night a co-production of Il barbiere di Siviglia (Act II pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) with Lithuanian National Opera opened at San Francisco Opera. Llorenc Corbella's set includes few walls on a raised platform meant to look like either the outside of Bartolo's house, or an interior courtyard, or the inside of the house, depending on the scene. The direction, from Emilio Sagi, has charm but is rather busy.

The orchestra sounded clear and fleet under Giuseppe Finzi. There were a few moments that were a little too loud, but not many. The oboe and clarinet were particularly fine. The chorus also sounded strong and together.

It is nice to hear Ao Li on the main stage, even if only in the small role of Fiorello. A.J. Glueckert is funny as Ambrogio and works well with Catherine Cook's hearty Berta. Likewise Andrea Silvestrelli is a rich-toned Don Basilio.

Alessandro Corbelli is a more than competent Doctor Bartolo, his patter is impressive. Lucas Meachem has perfect comic timing and a robust voice. Isabel Leonard makes for an attractive Rosina, her voice is dusky but has a lightness. Her "Una voce poco fa" was a bit too stately, but the audience liked her very much. Javier Camarena is a sweet-voiced Almaviva. His legato is lovely, and his sound as a certain open quality that is appealing.

* Tattling * 
Standing room attendance was sparse, I purchased my ticket at 6:20pm and had Standing Room Ticket 16.

There were only a few late-comers on the Balcony Level, and only one of them had a mobile phone that chimed once, during some Act I recitative.

Il barbiere di Siviglia at Opéra de Paris

Paris-opera-barbiere-2012* Notes *
Coline Serreau's 2002 production of Il barbiere di Siviglia (second half of Act I pictured left, photograph by Christian Leiber) opened Thursday night at Opéra national de Paris. Conducted by Marco Armiliato, the orchestra floated in the overture, but was somewhat loud at times. The members of the chorus were clear, and moved well in the choreography.

The principals are all fine actors. Carlo Cigni's Basilio is funny, as is Maurizio Muraro's Bartolo. The latter has an imposing command of patter. Tassis Christoyannis is an amusing Figaro, though his voice is not exceptional. Karine Deshayes started off rather darkly as Rosina, and showed a nice agility as the evening progressed. Antonino Siragusa is an appealing Almaviva, his bell-like tone is pretty. He was occasionally difficult to hear.

The Moorish set from Jean-Marc Stehlé and Antoine Fontaine, with matching costumes from Elsa Pavanel, is elaborate. The direction tended toward camp and silliness. This seemed to delight the majority of the audience, though someone did boo forcefully when Serreau appeared for her ovation.

* Tattling * 
It seemed many people seated around us on the parterre level did not have command of either the Italian of the opera or the French of the supertitles. There were whispered explanations for much of the first act.

Football was referenced in the last aria, and for some reason, this provoked much flash photography.

Merola Opera Program's Barber of Seville (Friday)

Barbiere_Aug2-1111 * Notes *
The Merola Opera Program's Il barbiere di Siviglia (Act II, Scene 5 with Renée Rapier, Daniel Curran, Peixin Chen, Mark Diamond, and John Maynard pictured left; photograph by Kristen Loken) returned with a second cast on Friday night. The orchestra, conducted by Mark Morash, sounded more comfortable this time around. Again, this group of singers was vocally strong. As a whole, the movements were understated and the acting was not overblown. Marina Boudart Harris (Berta) sang "Il vecchiotto cerca moglie" mournfully. Peixin Chen impressed as Don Basilio, his voice is full and almost bottomless. His "La Calunnia" was robust. John Maynard's Dr. Bartolo was amusingly imprudent and conniving. Maynard sang smoothly and with ease.

Mark Diamond made for a gallant Figaro, and sang with a certain lightness, yet had good volume. Daniel Curran had trouble at the end of Almaviva's first aria, but recovered nicely. Curran's voice has a pingy warmth and much power. Our mezzo-soprano Rosina, Renée Rapier, bubbled and sparkled, but also has a pretty darkness in her low notes.

* Tattling *
There some whispering during the performance, but no obvious electronic noise. Someone's crutch fell during Act I, house right on the orchestra level, near the front.

Merola Opera Program's Barber of Seville (Thursday)

Merola-barbiere-thursday-cast-2011 * Notes *
The Merola Opera Program's Il barbiere di Siviglia (Act II, Scene 11 with Jonathan Michie, Suzanne Rigden, and Heath Huberg pictured left; photograph by Kristen Loken) opened last night at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. Mark Morash held the orchestra together without rushing terribly. The cast was robust, with many pretty voices and great physicality. The chorus was incredibly loud, despite the small number of singers. Deborah Nansteel sang Berta's one aria, "Il vecchiotto cerca moglie," very beautifully. Adam Lau was quite funny as Don Basilio, his low notes projected well, without being gravelly. Philippe Sly convincingly transformed himself into the incredibly silly, old man that is Dr. Bartolo. His voice is lovely, and his "A un dottor dell mia sorte" was memorable.

Jonathan Michie had excellent comic timing as Figaro, and sang with bright warmth. Heath Huberg (Almaviva) was dashing, though at times slightly strained, but pleasantly light. Suzanne Rigden (Rosina) has a dizzying ability to sing high notes, her coloratura technique is impressive.

Eric Flatmo's set involved a great many of tinsel garlands and furniture placed on end. This made for simple scene changes. The lighting, designed by Jax Messenger, was at times harsh against the already very shiny surfaces. Roy Rallo's direction was consistent, his ideas were carried all the way through the production and were humorous. I enjoyed his deliberate use of anachronism. The costumes, from Kristi Johnson, appeared period, except for Rosina's outfit, which consisted of a long bubble skirt, a high-waisted robe with many fastenings, and boots.

* Tattling *
The man behind me in K 4 spoke at full volume for much of Act I, during Basilio's only aria and Bartolo's first one. There was especially confusion about identifying each character at the beginning. There was some electronic noise that seemed to be associated with the production, perhaps associated with cuing.

Il Barbiere at Seattle Opera

Barbiere-seattle-reception * Notes *
Il Barbiere di Siviglia returned to Seattle Opera this weekend. The set, from the Canadian Opera Company and designed by John Stoddart, is traditional, and turns for the various scenes. Particularly amusing were the projections used for the storm scene, we saw all manner of objects fly by. Peter Kazaras' stage direction was pleasingly campy, involving many dance moves. This all came together for a satisfying show and much laughter was heard.

Maestro Dean Williamson kept the orchestra going at a good clip, the brass had some ragged moments but the playing was lively. The chorus was not exactly together in the first scene, perhaps the choreography threw things off slightly.

Sunday's alternate cast was strong. David Adam Moore was an entertaining and spry Figaro. His voice is pleasant, but there were times when not all the words he sang could be discerned. He was also a bit slow during "Numero quindici a mano manca." Nicholas Phan made a fine Seattle Opera debut as Almaviva. His voice has a lot of volume and sweetness, though there was some strain at times. Kate Lindsey was a slightly tomboyish and very pert Rosina. She sounded rich and hale, yet shimmered when necessary.

As for the smaller roles, Sally Wolf sang Berta's aria convincingly. Burak Bilgili was a hilarious Don Basilio and Patrick Carfizzi likewise was comic. Carfizzi had wonderfully clear enunciation for "A un dottor della mia sorte."

* Tattling *
The audience clapped for the set twice, once for when they turned it about in Act I, and once for the interior at the beginning of Act II. The person in front of me in U 1 of Section 1 of the Orchestra Level twitched her head to pretty much every note of the music. Had I not been so engaged with this performance, I might have been more bothered by this. The woman in either V or W Seat 2 Section 2 sang along to the first notes of "Buona Sera, Mio Signore."

The Barber of Seville at LA Opera

Barber-of-seville-laopera * Notes * 
Last Sunday Il Barbiere di Siviglia opened in a matinée performance at Los Angeles Opera. The orchestra sounded unfocused under Michele Mariotti, often not with the singers. As Fiorello, José Adán Pérez sounded fine, as did Kerri Marcinko (Berta). Andrea Silvestrelli was an amusing Don Basilio, his throaty, resonant tones were spot on. Bruno Praticò looked and acted convincingly as Doctor Bartolo, but could not always be heard over the orchestra. both lacking heft and fullness.

Nathan Gunn (Figaro) moved so well, and he really has the physicality to pull off the humorous choreography in this production. His voice seemed just a little thin, especially for a baritone. Juan Diego Flórez was perfectly sweet as the Count, never straining. He started off slightly quiet, but seemed to warm up as the afternoon progressed. On the contrary, Joyce DiDonato (Rosina) was wonderful from the beginning. Full of sass, she sang with a gorgeous ease and good volume, but not overwhelming anyone else.

Emilio Sagi's production, directed by Javier Ulacia, was certainly informed by The Wizard of Oz, starting off monochrome and ending in lurid colors. The scenic design, from Llorenç Corbella, was perhaps overly precious. It was all terribly cute, especially Doctor Bartolo's tiny dog.

* Tattling * 
Everyone on the left side of Handrail Obstructed Balcony B was quiet, no talking, hardly any whispering. Unfortunately there was talking from the center, and of course, cellular phones rang during Act II, some more than once, even though we had all been reminded to turn off our electronic devices.

ENO's 2008-2009 Season

September 20- October 28 2008: Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci
September 22- October 10 2008: The Barber of Seville
October 10- November 12 2008: Partenope
October 22- November 22 2008: Aida
November 10- December 1 2008: Boris Godunov
November 27-30 2008: Riders to the Sea
June 12- July 10 2009: Madam Butterfly

Rosemary Joshua sings the title role of Partenope at English National Opera next season.

2008-2009 Season | Official Site

Opera Pacific's 2008-2009 Season

October 22- November 1 2008: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
January 21-31 2009: The Grapes of Wrath
March 21-29 2009: Salomé

Opera Pacific's next season features a West Coast premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's The Grapes of Wrath, which had its first performances last year at the Minnesota Opera. Deborah Voigt will sing Salomé, for me, this might be something worth going home to hear.

Season Brochure [PDF] | Opera Pacific Site

The Minnesota Opera's 2008-2009 Season

September 20 2008: Il Trovatore
November 1 2008: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
January 24 2009: Faust
February 28 2009: The Adventures of Pinocchio
April 11 2009: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

The Minnesota Opera's next season includes a U.S. premiere of Jonathan Dove's The Adventures of Pinocchio, some Mariinsky stars, and Paul Groves as Faust.

Star Tribune Article | The Minnesota Opera Site

Welsh National Opera's 2008-2009 Season

September 19- October 11 2008: Otello
September 26- October 9 2008: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
February 7-28 2008: Le Nozze di Figaro
October 8-10 2008: Jenůfa
February 12-27 2009: L'Elisir d'Amore
February 24-26 2009: Salomé
May 13- June 4 2009: The Queen of Spades
May 18- June 6 2009: La Bohème
June 2 2009: Mitridate, Re Di Ponte

Rebecca Evans is has her role debut as the Countess in Le Nozze, and is also singing Mimi in Bohème. Nuccia Focile sings the title role of Jenůfa and Dimitri Pittas sings Nemorino in L'Elisir.

Press Release | Official Site

Buona sera, mio signore

Sro* Notes *
Il Barbiere di Siviglia closes this Thursday, and last Sunday's performance was not bad, though I was rather distracted by reading the vocal score and not watching the stage.

* Tattling *
The main problem with the balcony is the latecomers, because otherwise, the sound is rather good up there. A family of four arrived after the music started, and thus were left to stand in the back for an hour and thirty-five minutes. This was terrible for children, because they were not tall enough to see over the wall. The mother was wearing stilettos and wanted to sit, but since one cannot see from the back benches, the children would not allow her to. The father left his umbrella, coat, and program on the bench by me, and another woman came over to me, asked if it was my stuff and left in a huff when I said no.

Later, this family had quite a lot of deliberations about what to do, and when it ran into "A un dottor della mia sorte," I finally hushed them. To this, the mother ran up to me, smiled and apologized aloud. At least I had fifty-five minutes of uninterrupted music in the second half.

In the morning, there was a nice man in the standing room/rush line who told us about his first opera. It was Don Giovanni at the Old Met, and he drove from Chicago, then waited in the standing room line for four hours. We discussed the last Figaro production at San Francisco Opera, and he mentioned a performance Aida which featured, in his words, beached whales as the lead singers. It was a charming morning, but there were no rush tickets, and he waited 2 hours because there was no sign indicating the unavailability of such tickets.

Fredda ed immobile

Balcon* Notes *
The seventh performance of Il Barbiere di Siviglia this season was at least better than the last I saw. Things may have been helped by standing in the balcony, where the sound is better. I could definitely hear Nathan Gunn (Figaro) more clearly except when he was in the upper room of Bartolo's Bauhaus house. Apparently his height made it so he could not project out of the set properly, but both John Osborn (Count Almaviva) and Allyson McHardy (Rosina) were audible. The finale of Act I was closer to being together, but I must say I'm not impressed by Maurizio Barbacini as a conductor. The music was taken so fast and seemingly without regard to the singers, it was like some sort of precarious race to the end.

* Tattling *
The later start made it easier for people to be on time, but there were still latecomers hanging out in standing room. Certain people are completely boggled by the concept that there are repercussions for being tardy.

Just before Bartolo's aria "A un dottor della mia sorte," someone took a photograph with flash, and as Bruno de Simone started singing, another photograph was taken.