BLO's "Barber of Seville": Splitting Heirs

Matthew Worth & the Cast of "the Barber of Seville"
(photo: Liza Voll Photography) 

Boston Lyric Opera is initiating its current season with a production of the comic opera The Barber of Seville by Rossini (which it also presented a half dozen seasons ago). Having now seen several recent versions of this opera buffa, it's hard to discern which one deserves to inherit the crown of all-round best; perhaps rather than split heirs, one should enjoy each production on its own merits. One shouldn't compare one opera comedy's approach with another, so one will make no mention of the incomparable Barber (by Francesca Zambello) this past summer at Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, New York, which set a high bar for physical productions that will be difficult to match or exceed. The current BLO version offers fine singing, and would have been thoroughly enjoyable in concert form, whereas in its present form it is chock-a-block with visual distractions.

Daniela Mack in "The Barber of Seville"
(photo: Liza Voll Photography)

In this familiar work, with its lively music by Gioachino Rossini and hysterical libretto by Cesare Sterbini, the production was imagination on speed, a visually confusing romp with a plethora of repetitious comic touches, two stage turntables with towers, and a non-stop cornucopia of heavy-handed direction by Rosetta Cucchi. It's rare that a much beloved work receives such an approach that is neither unified nor original, and if one comic touch seemed to land well, it was too often visited a second or third time. This take continued with the choice of Costume Design by Gianluca Falaschi (many ideas more suitable for Alice in Wonderland), Lighting Design by D.M. Wood and Scenic Design by Julia Noulin-Merat, based on the art of M. C. Escher with its stairways going nowhere (an apt metaphor for the entire production). Fortunately, the old saying still correctly admonishes that you can't hum the scenery; it remained for the orchestra (under Conductor David Angus) and cast to solidify all the stage business with musical and vocal precision. For all its apparent simplicity and ease, this is a challenging piece to perform, and neither the musicians in the pit nor on the stage failed to deliver, especially Daniela Mack as Rosina.

Jesus Garcia & the Cast in "The Barber of Seville"
(photo: Liza Voll Photography)

The story is well-known enough to dispense with a synopsis, other than to note that it all revolves around the character of Rosina, the almost universal object of affection of virtually everyone on stage, who is the ward of Dr. Bartolo (Steven Condy). Count Almaviva (Jesus Garcia), aided by Figaro (Matthew Worth), is another suitor. The rest of the cast include Rosina's music teacher Don Basilio (David Crawford), the housekeeper Berta (Michelle Trainor), and the characters of Almaviva's servant Fiorello (Vincent Turregano) and an officer (Jesse Darden). Vocally, there wasn't a clinker in the bunch.

Michelle Trainor & the Cast in "The Barber of Seville"
(photo: Liza Voll Photography)

What it lacks is a clear concept amidst a lot of chaotic busyness, here until October 21st.

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