BWW Review: Two Nights in Seville, Part 1 - with BARBIERE at the Met

BWW Review: Two Nights in Seville, Part 1 - with BARBIERE at the Met

BWW Review: Two Nights in Seville, Part 1 - with BARBIERE at the Met
From left: Peter Mattei, Javier Camarena, Pretty
Yende. Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

It didn't strike me until the lights were going down for the start of CARMEN last Thursday that this was the second night in a row that Met audiences were being transported to the same town in sunny Spain. Truth be told, "sunny" is hardly an adjective I'd hardly use to describe Bizet's tragedy in the shadow of the bullring, while it's just about right for dizzy events of Rossini's charmer, IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, which I'd heard the night before.

With BARBIERE, the Met managed to put together an all-star cast--just about the best you'd encounter anywhere in the delightful but challenging work. This was Barlett Sher's first production at the Met and it's still his best--simple and mostly consisting of slamming doors, in Michael Yeargan's sleek set design (Christopher Akerlind's lighting), which get plenty of use in this farce of the first magnitude. The revival's director, Kathleen Smith Belcher, did a fine job in reproducing the original's energy. But it's the score that really keeps things hopping--and has the game cast on their toes from beginning to end.

Count Almaviva was the debut role of tenor Javier Camarena back in 2011 and, despite a very good reception, it didn't much improve his profile with Met audiences. That didn't happen until he stepped into Rossini's LA CENERENTOLA (CINDERELLA) to replace Juan Diego Florez as the Prince opposite Joyce DiDonato in 2014 and set the place on fire. Now, it's hard to imagine that he didn't instantly become a star, as he throws off high C's and above as if they were nothing, while showing off his impeccable comic chops, disappearing into the role's many disguises and accents. (Though Met audiences haven't heard it yet, Camarena also has a magnificent serious side, which he showed in songs by Liszt at the Marilyn Horne Song Celebration at Carnegie Hall three nights later.)

He was matched, and then some, by soprano Pretty Yende as Rosina who, by any measure, showed off her spectacular coloratura, with impeccable ornamentation that kept coming and coming. It sounds picky to note that once or twice an aria seemed to disappear inside her runs and roulades, but anything was forgivable in a performance this daredevil and spot-on. I loved her "Una voce poco fa," which showed off her technique while drawing a clear picture of the character's independence and smarts, but I'd happily listen to any of her arias again. And she looked gorgeous in her costumes by Catherine Zuber.

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Richard Sasanow Richard Sasanow is a long-time writer on art, music, food, travel and international business for publications including The New York Times, The Guardian (UK), Town & Country and Travel & Leisure, among many others. He also interviewed some of the great singers of the 20th century for the programs at the San Francisco Opera and San Diego Opera and worked on US tours of the Orchestre National de France and Vienna State Opera, conducted by Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta and Leonard Bernstein.