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Laughs Abound in Il Barbiere

Orange County
Opera Pacific
10/22/2008 -  and 26, 30 October and 1 November 2008
Gioacchino Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Jeremy Kelly (Figaro), Brian Stucki (Count Almaviva), Jennifer Rivera (Rosina), Michael Gallup (Dr. Bartolo), Dean Peterson (Don Basilio), James Martin Schaefer (Fiorello), Teresa Brown (Berta), Dylan F. Thomas (Ambrogio), Ernest Alvarez (A Sergeant)
Jeanne Skrocki (Concertmaster), Henri Venanzi (Chorus Master), John DeMain (Conductor)
A. Scott Perry (Director), Yula Duchovny (Assistant Director), John Stoddart (Set Designer), Anna Björnsdotter (Costume Designer), Maura McGuinness (Lighting Designer)

(© Opera Pacific)

Born into a musical family, Gioacchino Rossini followed in his parents’ footsteps at age nine when he began to play the viola. Astonishingly, by twenty-one years of age Rossini had already written seven operas which quickly catapulted him into the limelight, producing works on an average of two per year. At breakneck speed Rossini covered every genre, from opera seria to opera buffa, resulting in a collection of thirty-nine (mostly successful) compositions by age thirty-seven. Rossini had a tendency to plagiarize his own works, but more importantly, Gioacchino Rossini was a fountainhead for future Italian romantic composers including Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Giuseppe Verdi. Perhaps the most well-known work in his gallery of comic operas is that of Il Barbiere di Siviglia (1816).

What we have here is director A. Scott Perry’s splendid production of expected quality: conservative and traditional with few excesses; it is easy to digest.

Making his Opera Pacific debut is Jeremy Kelly’s display of entertaining antics and bowling voice as a fitting Figaro while Brian Stucki takes on the well acted role of Count Almaviva (and other aliases) compensating for his sallow voice in the quest to marry Rosina played by Jennifer Rivera. Rivera’s good looks, intuitive acting, and glorious bel canto singing illuminate the stage especially during her famed aria, “Una voce poco fa”.

On equal level with Rivera is her ward Dr. Bartolo sung by returning artist Michael Gallup. The enormous bass-baritone suits Mr. Gallup, and he provides the perfect balance of humor and singing. Dean Peterson’s Don Basilio is exceptional while the ever sneezing maid, Berta, is wittily portrayed by Teresa Brown.

John Stoddart’s early years in architectural studies are cleverly represented with a revolving three part carousel depicting the interior and exterior of the Dr. Bartolo’s home in Sevilla, Spain in circumspect detail. Likewise, Maura McGuinness contributes well proportioned lighting in all the right places, particularly during the brief thunderstorm during scene changes in Act II resulting in a beautifully lit full moon casting a broad glow in the backdrop.

Adding her mark to the production is Anna Björnsdotter as the Costume Designer. Her research is meticulous. In tandem with John Stoddart, she demonstrates her talents throughout with colorful garments and variegated textures.

Rossini’s music frequently moves at breakneck speed, and John DeMain shows he is in full command and everyone is in sync. Without precision Il Barbiere di Siviglia will fall flat, but the maestro’s energies are hard to beat, pulling out all the stops with an orchestra that maintains great dynamics and instrumental coloring that matches flawlessly with the presto vocal movements.

Opera Pacific plays it safe by opening its 2008-2009 season with an authentic and thoughtful Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The one well worth watching is Jennifer Rivera. This gifted mezzo-soprano continues to receive numerous accolades for all the right reasons, and her Rosina is a match made in heaven.

We have Gioacchino Rossini to thank with his creation of Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Its timelessness brings audiences plenty of laughs and smiles. Undoubtedly, you’ll be chuckling for two and a half hours!

Christie Grimstad



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