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|A CurtainUp Berkshire Opera Review
Il Barbiere di Siiglia (The Barber of Seville)
The Berkshire Opera Company's 1998 production of The Magic Flute more than lived up to its title. Its many the magical elements made it a perfect first opera for children and anyone new to this musical genre. The company's first of the '99 season opera, the perennially popular The Barber of Seville is again perfect for opera newbies as well as aficionados. The comic doings manipulated by the colorful barber Figaro (yes, the same one who inspired Mozart to write The Marriage of Figaro ) is often laugh-aloud funny and the adjective catchy is not inappropriate to Rossini's marvelously lyrical score. While I noticed some attentive six to ten year olds in the audience, I'd say this night at the opera would be best suited to families with children at least thirteen years old.
For those unfamiliar with the story: Count Almaviva pretending to be a poor man named Lindoro serenades the beautiful Rosina, ward of Dr. Bartolo who has distinctly non fatherly designs on her. When Figaro the barber boasts of his many talents, the Count offers him a generous reward if he can arrange a meeting between him and Rosina. To add to the complications we have Dr. Bartolo's friend, the singing teacher Don Basilio who warns him of Count Almaviva's interest in Rosina. Not surprisingly, Rosina prefers the handsome Lindoro to her bossy old guardian. With the help of Figaro, Almaviva enters Bartolo's house disguised as a drunken soldier. Obstacles and other disguises follow -- the funniest being when Almaviva pretends to be a music teacher substituting for the supposedly ill Don Basilio. Figaro is never far from the scene, at one point shaving the suspicious Bartolo while the lovers plan their elopement. Bartolo sputters -- though this being an opera he does so with great lyrical flair, and Figaro and the lovers' schemes make for many delightful duets. And, this being a happy opera, all ends well.
With sets and costumes borrowed from the Virginia Opera Company, BOC has once again mounted a visually handsome production, with a cast rich in splendid voices and acting talent. The need to make last minute replacements that included a new leading lady (Rosina) have had no visible detrimental effect. Margaret Lattimore, for whom Rosina has been a signature role, stepped into this production as smoothly as if she'd been rehearsing for it all along. Her coloratura trills fly right to the vocal stratosphere, her acting is fine too. What's more, she's pretty enough to make Count Almaviva's and old Dr. Bartolo's passion for her fully convincing. While neither Curt Peterson's Count or Francois Loup's Dr. Bartolo quite match Ms. Lattimore's vocal range, Peterson is dashing and fun in his various disguises and Loup's gives a nicely nuanced portrayal of the lecherous old guardian.
Christopher Niruma, whose Papagello lent magic to last season's The Magic Flute, proves himself a fine Figaro though his rolling barber shop would be more apt for a Sabrett hot dog vendor than a barber. Ryan Allen, another last minute cast replacement, is a standout Don Basilio, especially in his rendition of "La calumina."
Those eager to see more of Ms. Lattimore, need only return to the Berkshire Opera Company's handsome home at Berkshire Community College next month. That's when she's slated to star in the company's first commissioned opera, an adaptation of Edith Wharton's short novel, Summer. While she will again play a young woman whose guardian takes an unfatherly interest in her, this one is not a comedy but will call on this young diva's talents as a tragedienne. The story's Berkshire setting couldn't be more appropriate.
Past Berkshire Opera company reviews: The Magic Flute. . .The Consul
Earlier this year a new play by Summer's librettist Joan Vail Thorne prompted an interview in which we talked briefly about the upcoming opera. To read it go here.