BWW Review: THE BARBER OF SEVILLE at Lyric Opera Of Chicago
Lyric Opera of Chicago opens its 65th season with Gioachino's Rossini's romantic comedy, THE BARBER OF SEVILLE. Tara Faircloth directs this exuberant revival of Lyric's 2013/14 production, originally directed by Rob Ashford, while Sir Andrew Davis conducts the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Michael Black serves as chorus master. Beautifully designed and masterfully sung, this production leans into the farcical comedy that ensues when Figaro, the eponymous barber, plays matchmaker for a wealthy count and a witty young woman.
Leading an international cast of stellar singers, Czech bass-baritone Adam Plachetka stars as Figaro, with powerful vocals and a commanding stage presence. Tenor Lawrence Brownlee appears as Count Almaviva, suitor to the charming Rosina (Marianne Crebassa). Rosina's oppressive guardian, Dr. Bartolo (Alessandro Corbelli) is determined to marry her, despite the decades separating them. In order to woo Rosina behind the doctor's back, Almaviva dons a series of absurd disguises with the aid of the resourceful Figaro.
This cast embraces the physical humor innate to the comic opera genre. For example, the height difference between Plachetka and Brownlee is played to full effect. Figaro repeatedly attempts to hide his tall frame behind small household objects, while the diminutive Count Almaviva must leap in the air to brush his beloved's hand as she dangles it from the balcony. Brownlee draws plenty of laughs in the count's disguises, especially when he appears as Rosina's music teacher and sings in an ostentatiously nasal tone. Crebassa is delightfully mischievous as Rosina, and the trio's attempts to outwit the crusty, lascivious doctor are increasingly ridiculous--culminating in a moment when, instead of making good their escape, the conspirators stop and sing for bars on end about how they must go quietly down the ladder. The conventions of opera itself are fair game for a joke here.
Visually, the creative team captures the warmth of the Spanish setting and evokes the classic architecture one would find on a tour of Seville. Scott Pask's elegant set features a series of stone archways with carved wooden doors and iron lattices silhouetted between columns. A revolving stage allows the same set pieces to accommodate both outdoor and indoor scenes, although appealing new elements catch the eye with each transition. Pask's spacious design allows Howard Harrison's lighting to illuminate the expansive backdrop with a soft sunrise, the yellow-orange daylight of southern Europe, and a flashing thunderstorm.
Last but not least, this production features Sir Andrew Davis conducting Rossini's most popular opera for the first time at Lyric, and his scintillating interpretation does not disappoint. Lyric recently announced that Davis will retire at the end of 2020/21, following 21 seasons as music director. For local opera fans, THE BARBER OF SEVILLE is the perfect opportunity to see Davis on the podium, leading a light-hearted, entertaining production of a beloved work.
THE BARBER OF SEVILLE plays through October 27 at Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606. Tickets start at $49 for adults and $20 for children, and are available at lyricopera.org/Barber or 312.827.5600.
Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg
Review by Emily McClanathan