Wednesday, November 26, 2014, was the encore performance of last Saturday’s sparkling production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia, by Gioachino Rossini (1792 – 1868) at (among other venues in 69 countries) the Cinemark Palace theater on Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza. One of the advantages of opere buffe when it is done well: it has something for everyone. Even young children can have fun with the slapstick, comical expressions and typically fast music. The music lover hears music no less fine than in the great tragedies. This Barber was done well.
For the music lover, Count Almaviva, played by Lawrence Brownlee was the key reason for attending. His vocal handling of the coloratura was world class, (i.e., “Ah, il più lieto,” at the end of Act II). The high notes were expressive, but easy (to listen to) and just fit; a habanero pepper is very hot, but unique among hot peppers, it has a complicated flavor, and, when used with respect, has an aftertaste of apricots. As for acting, he had to act as though he were in love with a beautiful woman, and would do anything, even tricks dreamed up by the barber, to win her hand; how hard can that be?
Christopher Maltman’s Figaro is for the kids. He has played the part so many times that every smile, every stare into the stage lights is packed away into his memory, even Largo al factotum was terrific, in a rote sort of way. But like Mr. Stinky Feet, he includes the maximum of antics without emulating the Three Stooges. He’s the one to promise your kids who brings the fun. He does his role well, if a little detached.
Rosina, portrayed by Isabel Leonard was a delight to the eyes and ears. Una voce poco fa, was light, laughing, and flirtatious. She maintained good vocal focus while dancing around with a couch pillow. As for acting, she was perfect, as long as a comely smile fit the scene; for pouting, fear, or uncertainty she resorted to 50s TV expressions (think “I Love Lucy) but no matter. She fit very well; one is not sure if she was in love with Almaviva, or really didn’t love Dr. Bartolo, her guardian and would be suitor.
Maurizio Muraro’s Dr. Bartolo fit the bill for an arrogant dirty old man with a great low voice. Paata Burchuladze as Don Basilio proved that this was not an edited and improved video, but truly a live video: he had a little gargle during his first half-ending aria, but he got rid of it for his glorious final note. He lived up to his reputation as available for any job, for a price. In fact, there were three jacks-of-all-trades in this show, the barber, Basilio, and the supernumerary butler, whose antics, at times, stole the show.
Speaking of the kids (old kids, too) don’t forget Sir Gabriel. He and his trainer were interviewed during intermission; you learn a lot about what it takes to be an opera donkey, and he does it all, very seriously, and always in character.