Feature

Opera: The Barber of Seville

Led by Juan Diego Fl&oacute;rez and Joyce DiDonato, the Los Angeles Opera&rsquo;s <em>Barber of Seville</em> delivers laughs plus a little &ldquo;something extra.&rdquo;

Los Angeles OperaDorothy Chandler Pavilion(213) 972-8001

****

The L.A. Opera’s Barber of Seville is “a charmer and a dazzler,” said Timothy Mangan in the Orange County, Calif., Register. Rossini’s masterful comic opera seldom fails to amuse, but this cast—led by the immensely talented Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez and American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato—delivers laughs plus a little “something extra.” Costume designer Renata Schussheim and production designer Emilio Sagi, meanwhile, give the proceedings a delightfully “flashy, tongue-in-cheek look.” One could argue that director Javier Ulacia works in “too much funny business,” but it’s all held in place by excellent performances and an intelligently conducted score.

Stagings of Barber too often degenerate into “overripe burlesque,” said Bob Verini in Variety. That’s not the case here. Ulacia and company present the piece with “love, respect, and an awareness of the opera’s antic wealth.” Baritone Nathan Gunn, who plays Rossini’s conniving barber, Figaro, kicks things off with a “galvanizing” version of his opening aria, “Largo al factotum.” Bass baritone Bruno Practicó’s hilarious turn as the thwarted suitor, Bartolo, sets the show’s absurd comedic tone, while young Italian conductor Michele Mariotti captures Rossini’s rich musical wit. Clearly, “there’s something about the particular magic” of this bel canto comedy that’s caught hold of this company. Together, they “achieve a kind of perfection.”

Ulacia’s production at times threatens to exceed the “cute quotient”—that is, until you hear the marvelous voices, said Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times. The “big draw” here is Flórez. As Rossini’s Count Almaviva, who disguises himself as a drunken soldier in order to woo the beautiful Rosina, his voice is a bit “on the slender side.” It’s versatile, however, and Flórez’s physicality during his arias is nothing short of amazing. On opening night, he “brought down the house,” dashing across the stage and hopping atop tables. Still, DiDonato and her “full, rich, hall-filling sound” define this Barber. As Rosina, she “steals a show that’s hard to steal.”

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