MOT’s ‘Barber of Seville’ sparkles and soars
DETROIT, Mich.–For opera fans, The Barber of Seville is pure cake, with lots of icing, fruit on top, sugar roses and cocoa powder. The current production by Michigan Opera Theatre is grand and delicious.
It is not for nothing that Barber is the most popular opera in the world, and has been for a long time. The story, and music by Rossini, is simple to follow, and, when done well, the actors and singers look like they are having as good a time as the audience.
Figaro (Lucas Meachem), the Barber, is a muse and manipulator for getting lovers Count Almaviva (Alek Shrader) and the fair Rosina (Daniela Mack) together in spite of Rosina’s fatuous guardian Dr. Bartolo (Andrew Shore) who is waiting for his ward to come of age so he can marry her. It’s worth noting that their chemistry is so good because they are married in real life. Almaviva first appears on stage as a poor student, Lindoro, serenading Rosina at her window, trying to woo her with his charm rather than his title and money. It won’t be the last time he disguises himself to pry his love away from her guard-dog.
Meachem, baritone, is delightful as Figaro, embracing every bit of the charming clownish character. He even does a little mixing with the patrons in the first row, breaking the fourth wall. And he is well mated to Mr. Shrader , tenor, who delivers a wonderful element of comedy and his own degree of clownishness in his part. This shines through especially in the extended scene where Figaro is trying to distract Bartolo by shaving him so that a disguised (as a singing priest no less) Almaviva can talk to Rosina under the guise of giving her a voice lesson and steal a few kisses.
Daniela Mack’s vocals are lovely, but her acting is even better a she plays Rosina as not quite the virginal waif we might think her to be, what with having a guardian. She is randy and embraces a ‘partner in crime” persona with Almaviva, but for a short time when she thinks he might have betrayed her.
Mr. Shore is delightful as Bartolo, and his bass baritone vocals are exceptional. His portrayal of the chubby, and (let’s face it) icky Bartolo is wonderfully comedic and villainous at the same time. Michelle Trainor also merits a call-out as Berta, the Governess in Bartolo’s house, who is salty and all-knowing about the absurdity of Bartolo’s plans to marry his ward. She nails her aria about people in love acting crazy.
Christopher Allen conducts a sublime score, starting with the memorable overture. Don’t be late for seating otherwise they will hold you outside the doors and you will miss it. Ane you don’t want that to happen.
One of the reasons hardcore opera fans still love Barber of Seville and its follow, The Marriage of Figaro, is that it is an opera that newbies to opera can embrace and enjoy. They are always looking to convert theatre fans to opera fans.
Catch one of the remaining performances, and bring an opera virgin. You’ll be glad you did.