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Don't miss this Barber of Seville at Seattle Opera

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Duke Kim as Count Almaviva and Megan Moore as Rosina in The Barber of Seville at Seattle Opera —Sunny Martini
Duke Kim as Count Almaviva and Megan Moore as Rosina in The Barber of Seville at Seattle Opera —Sunny Martini

Music by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Cesare Sterbini
Seattle Opera
McCaw Hall, Seattle Center
Opening weekend (May 4 and 5)

Everyone is familiar with the main musical themes from Rossini's comic opera The Barber of Seville. Many of us were introduced to opera by Bugs Bunny as "The Rabbit of Seville" or by Tom and Jerry, when Tom sings the iconic aria "Largo al factotum" ("Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!"). Now a cast of talented young singers gives audiences a chance to see the real-life opera that has inspired so much popular comedy.

On opening weekend, it was more hilarious, more frantic, and more delightful than anything a cartoonist could dream up. The audience laughed and applauded its way through the first performances of this terrific production.

It's the classic story of a beautiful girl, Rosina, being imprisoned by her elderly guardian, who wants to marry her for her money. In Rossini and Sterbini's version, Rosina is being forced to marry ridiculous old Dr. Bartolo. Enter Count Almaviva, a handsome young aristocrat who has fallen in love with Rosina and followed her to Seville. He appeals for help from Figaro, the local barber and jack-of-all-trades, who comes up with a scheme to foil Bartolo's plans. Since comedies always have happy endings, the audience knows that this silly plot will end in the triumph of love — but not before two acts of misdirection, deception, and slapstick shenanigans keep everybody guffawing.

The May 4 cast of The Barber of Seville at Seattle Opera — Philip Newton  

A colorful, lively production
The kaleidoscopic set in this production, by stage designer Tracy Grant Lord, is a perfect celebration of sparkling primary colors. Rossini's Seville is often represented by clichés of sunny Spain, but Grant Lord's version gives the audience characters who pop in and out of psychedelic doors and windows that add athletic energy to their singing roles. Vibrant colors by lighting designer Matthew Marshall contribute to the fun, as do the gorgeous costumes that evoke a fantasy of Seville, where seducers get their comeuppance and lovers their heart's desire.

On opening night, mezzo-soprano Megan Moore's Rosina was in excellent voice and temper as the girl who refuses to be maneuvered into marriage with Bartolo (played with broad comic turns by bass Kevin Burdette). Tenor Duke Kim was athletic, romantic, and in excellent voice as Count Almaviva. The star of the show, of course, was the Barber of Seville himself, played by Sean Michael Plumb, a wonderful baritone with a gift for cocky slapstick humor.

The second cast was equally splendid, with mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven playing a spirited Rosina and César Cortés as Almaviva deploying an exceptionally sweet tenor voice. Although Burdette's gift for physical comedy was not to be equaled, bass Ashraf Sewailam excelled vocally; his voice was more suitable for the bombastic Bartolo. As Figaro, baritone Luke Sutliff acquitted himself well, although his acting was less impressive than Plumb's.

Marc Kenison Waxie Moon as Ambrogio and Deanne Meek as Berta in The Barber of Seville at Seattle Opera — Sunny Martini  

In most productions, the roles of household servants Ambrogio and Berta are minor and forgettable, but in the hands of bass Marc Kenison (aka Waxie Moon, whose website describes him as "Seattle's gender-blending Queer lady boylesque performance-art stripping sensation") and mezzo-soprano Deanne Meek, these characters are quite memorable. Kenison is constantly in motion and at one point hangs by one leg from a chandelier! Meek admirably portrays a disgusted housemaid; her single aria gives voice to the discontents of the working class — a rarity in Rossini's day.

Conductor Valentina Peleggi led members of Seattle Symphony (plus virtuoso guitarist Michael Partington) and the Seattle Opera Chorus through the lively score with finesse and aplomb. As always, the chorus members established themselves as individual personalities, and their onstage antics were among the funniest parts of the show.

What are you waiting for?
Seattle Opera makes it easy and affordable to attend, with a Rush Pass program for seniors and service professionals (show up 30 minutes before curtain time and get discounted seats), as well as a Pay-What-You-Wish performance and discount programs for families and children, military, educators, teens, and the ever-popular standing room. If you've never seen an opera before, this one's a great starter. If you love comedy and popular music, The Barber of Seville is perfect for you. If you're glad Seattle has its own opera company that enriches our lives as citizens, come to this show!

Performances continue through May 19. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://seattleopera.org