Review: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

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Early 19th Century Italian opera…just not my thing! I mean, this opera is probably the very best that time and place produced, and I admire its virtues and chuckle at its humor (more than I do for some other supposedly funny operas) – but still it leaves me wanting something more or something else.

Director Bartlett Sher’s low-key production didn’t help me much. Not that he did sub par work – he never does, I find his work admirable. And here, he served the opera fine, and added some welcome slapstick. He just didn’t elevate the material in a way that worked for me personally.

Il Barbiere does not lack for beautiful melodies, and in the current Met production they are indeed beautifully sung. Isabel Leonard plays the feisty Rosina, a lovely young woman who struggles against being kept under lock and key by her overprotective guardian. Her singing sparkles brightly and she brings terrific bite and knowingness to the role. In Rosina’s aria “Una voce poca fa” she warns that when crossed in love she “becomes a viper” – Leonard delivers that line with a wicked smile, which makes it all the more intimidating.

Lawrence Brownlee plays her suitor, Almaviva (a count in a series of serving-class disguises), with earnest energy. He executed the virtuosic runs that are the role’s hallmaks with great skill and panache. Christopher Maltman plays the titular barber, Figaro. The opera belongs more to Rosina and Almaviva than to Figaro, so any production needs a charasmatic singer with a golden voice in this role, if only to justify the title – Maltman more than fits the bill. He is indeed so slyly sexy that you wonder why Figaro has no major love interest in the piece.

So, great arias well performed. Cute comedy, effervescently played. And?

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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