LA Opera's The Barber of Seville Review - Thrilling Music and Hijinks Make a Fun Evening

From the first to the last notes of Rossini’s famous overture to the wonderfully realistic full moon rising onstage, The Barber of Seville at LA Opera rouses the spirits, the sense of delight, the anticipation of thrills and fun before one word is sung, one piece of scenery is put in place or one character is seen.  One of the very best and most well known musical scores in all comic opera, it has such power to delight and put the audience in the mood for comic mischief. And its musical magic is well realized by the LA Opera orchestra under the conductorship of James Conlon.

 

Figaro entertains from his barber cart

LA Opera buffs may have a sense of déjà vu when the sets are rolled out in their blanched style, the characters appear all in black and white in the first scene.  This is the same production that was seen here in 2009 and put together with the same production team: producer, scenic designer, lighting designer, and choreographer-- all from Spain where the action takes place, and costume designer from Argentina.  In my 2009 LASplash article you can see the pictures and read about this very production. LA Opera must have acres of storage space to be able to roll out gigantic set pieces still intact, after six years.

 

Figaro plots with Rosina

My comments about the set and costumes remain the same: they are magnificent and yet the black and white theme until almost the end is a bit washed out for such a vibrant and over-the-top story and performances.  When we finally get color in the last act near the end of a long story, the effect is full and magnificent, with spring colors popping up everywhere as if after a long winter.  The matching pink costumes of the two lovers are beautiful and the large ensemble appears in multiple shades like a field of wild flowers.  It is a relief, but was all the white necessary up until then?  However, it may have been worth it to stick with the white theme for the magnificent blizzard scene in the third act as the lovers are trying to escape.  The scene is wonderfully realized and helps further the plot.

Of course, the opera stars are all different from those of six years ago.  In this production, every single performer has a strong, vibrant voice and able to deliver on the difficult bel canto ultra- fast and repetitive sounds of the Rossini score. 

Act III and beautiful color is coming into the lives of Figaro and the lovers

 Almost all of the cast members are LA Opera regulars.  There is one exception-- Elizabeth DeShong, the mezzo-soprano who plays Rosina, makes her LA Opera debut.  She has such ease, as well as strength, in her voice. And is a lovely full-toned voice, as well. She also has complete mastery over the bel canto style. She creates a funny, petulant character who is charismatic and hard not to watch, even with all the antics going on around her by the male characters.  The popular and hugely talented Nino Machaidze, who has been somewhat the queen of comedy at LA Opera, finally has a rival who can deliver on both musical and comedic fronts.  I hope we get to see more of Elizabeth in the near future (as well as Nino).

 

Petulant Rosina

Rodion Pogossov, who played Papageno in the 2013 production of The Magic Flute, is nimble and appropriately rascally as the title character of Figaro. It is such a treat that during the LA Opera’s innovative three month study of Figaro, Figaro Unbound, we are learning so much about this Beaumarchais character in so many of his dimensions.  He is a rabble- rouser who helps stir up the status quo of society as did his creator, Beaumarchais, in real life. Beaumarchais was a champion of the French and American revolutions.  Figaro represents the best of the “little people” who can outwit the upper classes, and he deserves whatever he can achieve.

Rene Barbera is good as Count Almaviva who starts and ends a romantic lead and turns to comic buffo in the middle when, under Figaro’s encouragement, he jumps into the roles of drunken soldier and spiritual man.

 

Doctor Bartolo is losing control

Alessandro Corbelli is funny as Doctor Bartolo and especially hams it up with his ultra fast singing. Lucy Schaufer is endearing as the disheveled maid Berta.

 

Silly maid Berta does her own commentary

Kristinn Sigmundsson steals the show as Don Basilio with his huge stature and his very deep voice. Perhaps he is the only singer to star in all three Figaro operas during the Figaro trilogy. We can’t wait to see him as Dr. Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro.

Don Basilio dominates

Although all the actors were very good, I was also very impressed with Jonathan Michie as Fiorello. His voice is sweet and his stature is dynamic.  Look forward to seeing him next season as The Magic Flute’s Papageno.

 

Color and love fill the stage at the end

Kudos to LA Opera for educating us and bringing these historic and interesting characters into the forefront and making them more accessible to today’s audiences. This is an opera full of entertainment, and I highly recommend it.  The music is still ringing in my ears.

The Barber of Seville by Gianchino Rossini     LA Opera

This opera is part of the LA Opera's three month Figaro Unbound program

Buy tickets for the dates below at LAOPERA or call 213 972 8001

Sunday March 08, 2015 02:00 PM  Wednesday, March 11, 2014 07:30PM

Saturday March 14, 2015 07:30 PM  Thursday March 19, 2015 07:30 PM

Sunday March 22, 2015 02:00 PM

 

Georja Umano is an actress and animal advocate.

Photos by Craig T. Matthew courtesy LA Opera

 

 

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