BWW Review: THE BARBER OF SEVILLE goes full circus in the Canadian Opera Company's electrifying, funny production
The Canadian Opera Company's remount of THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, last performed in 2015, is a visually striking and pitch-perfect adaptation of one of opera's most well-known works. With staging by Spanish theatre troupe Els Comediants, director Joan Font beautifully blends 19th century sensibilities, modern architecture, and clownish costumes for an opera experience that defies any one genre.
The story opens on a Seville street at dawn to show Count Almaviva (Santiago Ballerini), who is desperate to marry Rosina (Emily D'Angelo). Unfortunately, she's the ward of the controlling doctor Bartolo (Renato Girolami) who plans on marrying her himself. Enter Figaro (Vito Priante), Seville's most popular barber, who decides to help the Count and Rosina marry through a series of chaotic, hilarious escapades.
The entire cast is impeccable, right down to characters with the briefest of appearances. Priante nails the demanding, iconic 'Figaro here, Figaro there' entrance aria, and never lets up. His barber is both blunt and over-the-top; a quintessential trickster with a relentlessly hilarious chaotic energy. Priante and Ballerini play wonderfully off each other, and although it's likely an unintentional coincidence, their height difference adds extra hilarity to their early Act 1 duet. Ballerini himself is a force, transitioning into different characters with Figaro's zany disguises and executing each new character with perfect comedic timing.
D'Angelo's Rosina is a ball of lightning in a pristine white dress; when she sings about being a viper if needed, you don't just hear it - you can see it. Her airy-yet-blunt refusal of Bartolo's very accurate accusations is hilarious, and the two have great tension on stage. Girolami is potentially the biggest clown in the production, and carries the doctor with plenty of pomp, despite his traditional clown apparel. As Rosina's singing teacher and the brunt of many jokes Basilio (Brandon Cedel), Cedel really leans into the ridiculousness of the character to make his scenes that much more hilarious.
Rossini's score, packed with numbers that have transcended the stage and become pop culture staples, is conducted beautifully by Speranza Scappucci; watching her direct through the overture is nothing short of mesmerizing. Set design (Joan Guillén) is grandiose, with translucent walls allowing audiences to see action within Bartolo's modern mansion and the bustling streets of Seville. Multi-level lighting (Albert Fauna) creates dozens of settings, scenarios and themes - from a warm lantern lighting a blue-dark street, to the top-down cop-drama lighting of Bartolo's interrogation of Rosina. Costuming (Guillén) is vaguely circus-inspired and adds a more whimsical aspect to the already wild story.
The Canadian Opera Company's THE BARBER OF SEVILLE's whimsical nature, impeccable musicianship and vocal performances, and laugh inducing comedy is a masterclass in how to make a monumental opera fresh and exciting for long-time fans and newcomers to the genre.
The Canadian Opera Company's THE BARBER OF SEVILLE runs through February 7 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St W, Toronto, ON.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.coc.ca/productions/18712
Photo credit: Michael Cooper