Friday, August 05, 2011

Merola Opera: Barbiere, 1st Cast

Merola Opera ProgramLast night I saw the 1st cast of Merola Opera's Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Herbst Theatre. Everyone in the cast was strong-voiced & displayed likeable, ebullient personalities. Baritone Jonathan Michie brandished a razor & was a predatory Figaro. I liked his full & round low notes. He projected his character like he was on Broadway. Tenor Heath Huberg sings very high without strain & makes a pleasing sound, though his high notes seem disconnected from his low notes. He moves comfortably on stage & acted the drunken soldier with convincing looseness. Suzanne Rigden, a soprano Rosina, has a fearsome coloratura. Hearing her pick off all those high notes was like watching a bowler make a strike every time.

Bass-baritone Philippe Sly, done up like an 18th century Ronald McDonald, was clownish but not stupid as Bartolo. He has a booming voice & a captivating stage presence. His "A un dottor della mia sorte" was a complete scene in itself. He was hilarious in Act II, looking like a yoga accident when the curtain comes up. Bass Adam Lau was a ridiculous, vaguely indecent, Don Basilio. He has a big voice which he modulates well, & he seemed to have fun wearing his absurd powered wig with its erect ponytail. Mezzo Deborah Nansteel fleshed out Berta's throw-away aria with her gorgeously rich sound & expressive phrasing. The cast made a huge combined sound in the ensembles.

The sets are nearly abstract, consisting mainly of tables, often up-ended. The backdrop & scrim are curtains of Christmas tinsel garlands that are so shiny that they sometimes hurt the eye. The staging is lively and tells the story in a straight-forward fashion. The characters are in period costumes but with deliberate anachronisms thrown in. During "La calunnia" Don Basilio unfurls a poster of incriminating Anthony Weiner photos. In Act II, the audience applauded a reference to a recent end-of-the-world prophecy. I liked the dumb-show wedding between Rosina & Bartolo during the storm scene, the couple showered with money instead of rice.

The orchestra was on the floor in front of the stage, & their sound carried into the hall well. The drum made a truly thunderous sound during the storm music. The harpsichord player was eager & assertive & jokingly interpolated a tune from the Marriage of Figaro at one point.

There are 2 casts for this show, which has additional performances Friday, August 5 at 8:00 PM & Saturday & Sunday, August 6 & 7 at 2:00 PM.

§ Merola Opera Program
Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Gioachino Rossini

Conductor, Mark Morash
Director, Roy Rallo

Rosina - Suzanne Rigden
Berta - Deborah Nansteel
Count Almaviva - Heath Huberg
Figaro - Jonathan Michie
Doctor Bartolo - Philippe Sly
Don Basilio - Adam Lau
Fiorello - Suchan Kim

Thursday, August 4, 8:00 PM
Herbst Theatre

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