BWW Review: THE BARBER OF SEVILLE at Sarasota Opera House

BWW Review: THE BARBER OF SEVILLE at Sarasota Opera House

Gioachino Rossini's opera buffa, (comedic opera), The Barber of Seville or The Useless Precaution, has proven to be one opera's most treasured masterpieces. It is written in two acts with an Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini. The libretto was based on Pierre Beaumarchais's French comedy Le Barbier de Séville. If you do a little research on Beaumarchais you'll find he was quite the polymath. With his wide variety of interests and expertise, at various times throughout his life, he was an inventor, playwright, spy, arms dealer, financier, and a French and American revolutionary. Quite a character! I liken him to his character Figaro, the enterprising barber who is the subject of Rossini's Barber of Seville as well as Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro.

The Barber of Seville recounts the story of Count Almaviva (Victor Ryan Robertson), a Spanish nobleman in love with Rosina (Lisa Chavez) who is the wealthy ward of and old physician Dr. Bartolo (Stefano de Peppo). The doctor has his mind set on marrying Rosina for her money. Almaviva has followed Rosina from Madrid to Seville, disguised as a poor student named, Lindoro.

In the opening scene, below Rosina's window at Dr Bartolo's house, Almaviva serenades Rosina, assisted by a group of hired musicians, to capture her attention. Not getting the response he hoped for, Almaviva enlists the help of Figaro (Filippo Fontana), a barber who thinks highly of himself and has his hands in everybody's business. Figaro is a handyman to the Bartolo household and has access to Rosina. When Rosina appears on the balcony she tosses a note to her suitor below. Dr. Bartolo is suspicions of the note's contents and labors down the inside stairwell to the street below to look for the note. Almaviva captures it before Dr. Bartolo gets to the street and Rosina tells him it was taken by the wind. Dr. Bartolo knows of the rumors of Almaviva's interest in Rosina and feels he cannot waste further time in setting up the marriage. He orders his servants that while he is out, no one is allowed in the house. Let the mayhem begin!

Dr Bartolo engages the help of Basilio, Rosina's music teacher to come up with a way to marry Rosina as soon as possible. Figaro in the meantime is lured by the promise of money for his assistance in getting Almaviva to Rosina. He comes up with a series of plots to connect the two while keeping Almaviva's identity a secret and putting him through a series of disguises. Almaviva almost loses Rosina to Dr. Bartolo after his plot with Basilio dupes her but they are found out in the end and Rosina and Almaviva finally get together.

The underlying tone of this opera is brilliantly funny and makes for an entertaining and lively love story. The cadence of the lyrics is a mouthful to speak let alone sing. This cast is effervescent in each of their roles. Although this is a long opera (about 3 hours), it could not have been more delightful. Filippo Fontana is Figaro! He plays the part of the cocky barber with charm and finesse and has the vocal chops to tackle this masterful piece. Miss Chavez gave a spirited performance as Rosina. Her beautiful voice and comedic timing was well received by the audience throughout the program. Victor Ryan Robertson as lovelorn Almaviva was sweet and gentle about his pursuit of Rosina and let go to have some fun during his "drunken" scenes. Stefano de Peppo as Dr. Bartolo had some of the toughest lyrics to perform and was riveting to watch. Young Bok Kim as Basilio delivered the richest, deepest bass notes I have heard in a long time. He brought a charisma to his character that made you like him, even though he was an advocate of Dr. Bartolo. Someone I would like to see more of in future productions was Anna Mandina, who portrayed Berta, Dr. Bartolo's housekeeper. Her voice was as strong and beautiful as any lead and her facial expressions drew you in.

Under the masterful baton of Conductor Victor DeRenzi, the Sarasota Orchestra and Sarasota Opera Studio & Apprentice Artists gave a superb performance of their own right. Rounding off the brilliance of this production was impeccable stage direction by Stephanie Sundine, elaborate set designs by Jeffrey W. Dean, impressive costumes by Howard Tsvi Kaplan, authentic lighting by Ken Yunker, (loved the lighting storm), and beautiful hair and make up by Brittany Rappise.

The Barber of Seville runs through November 11, 2018. For more information of Sarasota Opera visit www.sarasotaopera.org.

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From This Author Carolan Trbovich

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