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A soild, lively production

Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
04/16/2008 -  and 19, 25 April, 2, 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, 21, 23 May
Gioacchino Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Rodion Pogossov (Figaro), Blagoj Nacoski (Count Almaviva), Enkelejda Shkosa (Rosina), Patrick Carfizzi (Doctor Bartolo), Burak Bilgili (Don Basilio), Melinda Delorme (Berta), Justin Welsh (Fiorello), Jason Nedecky (Officer), John Kriter (Ambrogio), Alexander Hajek (Notary)
Canadian Opera Company Chorus, Sandra Horst (Chorus Master), Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, Miguel Harth-Bedoya*/Steven Philcox (Conductor)
Michael Patrick Albano (Director), John Stoddart (Set and Costume Designer), Stephen Ross (Lighting Designer)

This lively revival of Barbiere is notable for the uniformly strong singing of the cast.

The title role is played by the animated Rodion Pogossov who is one of those rare twinkly performers who seems to be flirting with each member of the audience all at once. It’s almost incidental that he also has the voice for the role.

Blagoj Nacoski as Almaviva (aka Lindoro, aka the drunken soldier, aka the dimwit music master) has an attractive youthful voice. He doesn’t deliver quite the sharply-defined Rossinian decoration one expects, but his smooth, graceful delivery of the musical lines is suitably gentleman-like, especially in the opening scene’s serenade and aria.

(And, speaking of the opening scene: There was a bit of drama in the audience during Almaviva’s Lindoro aria, deriving from the use/misuse of cellphones. One started to ring deep within the handbag of the woman seated in Orchestra Row N, seat 43. It rang at least six times before she was able to unearth it. Moments later, another phone rang and the woman in Row O, Seat 38, actually took the call! I was in Row P, seat 42, so had an all-too-perfect view of these tragi-comical additions to the evening’s entertainment.)

Enkelejda Shkosa (Rosina) has a big voice that goes a bit wild in a couple of spots. One cannot believe for a moment that she was ever docile, but that’s part of the fun.

Patrick Carfizzi goes all out in the quintessential buffo role of Doctor Bartolo, and Burak Bilgili has his masterful way with the role of Don Basilio.

The production dates from 1999 and my memory of it in the bad old theatre is that is was drab, faded and fussy. This time around it reminds me (happily) of a two-star hotel where I stayed in Seville. All the necessary accoutrements are there: various doors, a courtyard, balconies, window grills, stairway, plants. An audience-pleasing revolve makes for fluid - even witty - scene changes.

Michael Patrick Albano has devised some new (to me) stage business and most of it works. I don’t know why the soldiers are looting Bartolo’s house at the end of Act I, but their movements suit the animated music. At the same time Berta seems to have an undertaker on call for when Bartolo passes on, and is somewhat disappointed to find he has only fainted from over-excitement. There were the usual complaints by some audience members of too much larkiness, but people who have a zero-tolerance for such goings-on should not come near Barbiere.

Melinda Delorme, a member of the COC’s Ensemble Studio, does very well with the role of Berta, holding her own in the ensembles. One wishes the role of Fiorello were longer when it is sung as attractively as Justin Welsh (another member of the Ensemble Studio) manages it. One looks forward to hearing him in leading roles.

Peruvian conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, making a COC debut, draws a measured and appropriate response from the orchestra and male chorus.

One slight disappointment was the absence of Almaviva’s joyous Cessa di più resistere after his marriage to Rosina has been effected. I believe it is frequently (perhaps even usually) not done, but the ending of the opera is cursory without it - and I’m sure Mr. Nacoski would perform it elegantly.

All in all, a satisfying entertainment.

Michael Johnson



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