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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 20, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 42
Seattle Opera's The Barber of Seville a colorful and hilarious delight
Arts & Entertainment
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Seattle Opera's The Barber of Seville a colorful and hilarious delight

by Sharon Cumberland - SGN A&E Writer

SEATTLE OPERA
THE BARBER OF SEVILLE
MARION OLIVER MCCAW HALL
October 14 (Opening Night cast)
(Same cast 10/20, 10/22 & 10/25)


Seattle Opera's new production of Gioachino Rossini's The Barber of Seville is a colorful delight from start to finish. Thanks to the kaleidoscopic sets designed by Tracy Grant Lord, the audience is transported to an imaginary Seville bursting with dramatic playfulness that matches the antics of Rossini's comic opera. When the familiar overture begins and the proscenium lights up with an archway of brightly painted doors we know we are in the presence of comic complications as well as Day-Glo colors. It's clear from the start that even in the face of plots and counter-plots love will triumph.

The story by librettist Cesare Sterbini is based upon a play by Beaumarchais about a clever barber, Figaro, who helps Count Almaviva woo Rosina, the girl he adores. She's the ward of Dr. Bartolo, a pompous old man who wants to marry her himself and claim her fortune. How Figaro bamboozles Bartolo and clears a path for true love is the matter for two acts of fabulous music and slapstick humor. And in this production we get some rowdy dancing and rock-star showmanship throughout.

Though productions of Barber are often presented in the literal world of Old Seville, complete with flamenco dresses and matador outfits, this co-production with Opera Queensland and New Zealand Opera is in the same universe with Sergeant Pepper and the Magical Mystery Tour. Lord's costumes are in primary colors, with Figaro in purple bell-bottom trousers and Rosina in rose-covered pajamas and circle skirts. Lighting designer Matthew Marshall has an especially busy role to play with disco lights and follow spots for this Broadway-style production. Once again we can be grateful for General Director Aidan Lang's connections to arts in the antipodes that brought to Seattle the debuting artists who are responsible for this colorful and hilarious production.

Primary among these are the opening night lovers - Sabrina Puértolas with her soaring soprano as Rosina and Matthew Grill with his ringing tenor as Count Almaviva. Each has to sing challenging arias so familiar to opera goers that expectations are high - we've heard these arias on recordings a hundred times by famous opera stars. Happily our expectations were beautifully met by both singers, who not only produced confidant and full-throated sound, but who performed their comic roles to perfection.

On opening night the singing was uniformly star-quality, but the shooting star was John Moore's Figaro with his powerful baritone and unabashedly cocky acting. Not only did he raise the rafters with his stentorian voice that sounded as fresh at the end of the opera as it did in the beginning, but he gathered the audience into his machinations with every trick in the comic actor's book, from running through the aisles to dancing the boogaloo. His uninhibited performance was an extrovert's dream - and the audience's delight. Moore made his debut at Seattle Opera last year in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro based on the second Beaumarchais play in a trilogy about the same characters. Ironically, he sang the role of Count Almaviva who is no longer a young lovelorn tenor but a world-weary aristocrat who is cheating on Rosina, now his wife, by seducing Figaro's fiancée before their wedding. Who would have thought, seeing Moore as the dark and mean-spirited Count in last year's production of Marriage that he would return as Rossini's sunny, funny Figaro? We can all be grateful that he did.

This production of The Barber of Seville is the perfect starter-opera for those who may never have seen an opera before, or for those who might be worried that opera is over their heads. Believe me, this is no more over your head than a fabulous show in Las Vegas. It's sung in Italian, but the supertitles give you all the English you need, and the acting is so vivid that you could follow the story if there were no supertitles at all. And in case you were wondering whether children would get a kick out of this, I can guarantee that they will. My opera buddy for this production was my nine-year-old nephew who laughed all the way through. He may not have gotten every nuance of the plot, but he got all the physical humor - much of it delivered by Seattle's own Waxie Moon (Marc Kenison) whose antics in the silent role of the servant Ambrogio kept a series of running gags and surprises going through out the evening.

Kudos all around for a delightful evening of marvelous singing, wonderful production values, and humor of the belly-laugh variety. This wonderful production of The Barber of Seville is performed through October 28. If you ever thought you'd give opera a try, now's your chance.

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Seattle Opera's The Barber of Seville a colorful and hilarious delight
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