(CBS SF) – In San Francisco Opera’s new production of “The Barber of Seville,” the last on the fall 2013 roster, the stage explodes with flamenco dancers, guitar players and saber-rattling soldiers. Well before Figaro arrives on his barbershop-bicycle, there is a lot of flirting and flaunting, and from beginning to end it is the kind of show that demonstrates how much fun opera can be.
Co-produced with the National Opera of Lithuania and heard first here, this “Barber” is set squarely in Seville as Llorenc Corbella’s designs and Pepa Ojanguren’s flounced dresses and toreador suits make clear. Spanish director Emilio Sagi’s busy staging depicts Andalusian street life in constant motion, figures careening onstage as if perpetually charged with impromptu ideas.
Audun Iversen in his U.S. opera debut was a vivid barber with a lustrous voice and a sharp sense of comic timing. The Norwegian baritone’s “Largo al factotum” was vibrantly delivered, and the best moments of the night occurred when he was scheming with one or another of the characters, particularly the marvelous Rosina of mezzo Daniela Mack.
Mack is a fine actress, a fiery Argentine and former Adler Fellow who can unleash torrents of coloratura without blinking an eye. Incidentally, the opera was commissioned for the Teatro Argentina in Rome during Carnival season, 1816, with the composer conducting from the harpsichord, just as Resident Conductor Guiseppe Finzi, who led the opera orchestra with great verve, did here.
As Count Almaviva, the object of Rosina’s affection, Alek Shrader, also a former Adler Fellow — sang with a lovely light sound, and if his projection wasn’t always consistent, his Lindoro — the poor student he pretends to be while courting Rosina — and finally the handsome Count were entirely persuasive, and he brought considerable electricity to his courting scenes with Mack; they are husband and wife in real life.
The two exit as newlyweds at opera’s end in a flame-red 1950s Jaguar, signaling the triumph of new ideas — out with the feudal, in with the revolutionary — a hat tipped to Beaumarchais.
As if the cast didn’t already boast enough commanding figures, enter two powerful Italian basses in comic roles: Maurizio Muraro as the aging and controlling suitor Dr. Bartolo and Andrea Silvestrelli as the thick tutor Don Basilio — handsome comic turns by both of them.
Catherine Cook was bumptious and bright as the housekeeper Berta, a role she practically owns, and Adler Fellows Ao Li, Hadleigh Adams and A.J.Glueckert added their own comic touches to the evening — Glueckert has a madcap theatrical sense.
“The Barber of Seville” runs in San Francisco at the War Memorial Opera House through December l.
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