Lyric Opera Opens its 65th Season with the very popular Rossini opera THE BARBER OF SEVILLE
The first sign of the fun to be had is the sign above seeming to wink from the gray gravitas oozing Civic Opera House that reads, “Relationship Problems? Call the Barber of Seville.” On opening night of the 65th Season, the merriment abounds as arriving patrons marvel at the selection of top hats, bow ties, tuxedos and trailing gowns arriving. They fill the hall from red carpet entrance, to upper floor queues for champagne flutes and such. Some really were there to be seen, such as Miss Cicero, along with her handlers, who are eager to tell you she is en route to the Miss Illinois competition. And some were there seeming to want not to be seen, such as a recent winner of the Ryan Opera Center competitions, garbed with little finery, and sans fawning guests. She would later emerge from the Ladies Room during intermission in what seemed like a purposeful stealth speed to miss the masses. Perhaps the poster girls for this occasion were the three little girls , each dressed like princesses. One imagines they were going to the opera for the first time in their life, or at least one of the first times.
The Barber of Seville fits the Lyric’s successful recipe of picking a well-known classic for opening night such as last year’s LA BOHÈME. The choice of this Rossini classic strikes this writer as a perfect choice made even more perfect.
The front curtain graphic at first might strike as oddly clip-art like,. It depicts a man, a woman’s visage, and a third empty wig-- all within an ornate frame motif. Soon you realize the brilliance of this touch. It is an appetizer for the set’s abundant ironwork gate curlicues. If you were to pick an image for the vocal twirls we soon hear, you couldn’t imagine a better visual onomatopoeia for this often fast-clipped and coloratura-filled score.
Sir Andrew Davis Conducts Lyric Opera Orchestra
Sir Andrew Davis conducts this opener to this Lyric season. The relatively long, but familiar, overture played with a lilt by the orchestra, under his baton, helps us shift attention from the pre-show lobby buzz, to the performance.
By the time Adam Plachetka, as Figaro, sings the uber-familiar refrain of how everyone is calling him (Figaro this and Figaro that…) you realize how the Lyric gets dangerously close to inviting a karaoke-styled singalong. Even if you don’t know opera, you know this reprise. Rossini’s magic, in this score’s opening scenes, is to layout a theme. He then asks his singers to dice it, and slice it, into smaller pieces --at faster and faster clips. If you had to find an opera melody to use as the auditory definition of FUN, you would be well served by starting your explorations with the music of The Barber of Seville.
Directors Rob Ashford (original) and Tara Faircloth (revival) bring out the comedy in this opera by having the performers camp it up with physical humor whenever they can. It delights the way in which you remember the Sunday morning cartoons doing. Tenor Lawrence Brownlee--whom many Lyric regulars may feel like they know more intimately from his Cycles of My Being concert—is shorter than most other singers on the set. This becomes the fodder for sight gags galore. Wigmaker Sarah Hatten went to town when she outfitted the crotchedly guardian Dr Bartolo (Alessandro Corbelli). Every time he appears, audience members members of a certain age, would not be surprised if the directors also chose to have a singing Road Runner also dash in.
The comic story of The Barber of Seville is not only slapstick waiting to happen, but also very easy to follow. The title character is a good natured fixer—more a Michael Cohen than a Roy Cohn. He gets into every home to shave the men, do minor surgeries, and also ferry notes and such to help pining lovers connect. In Shakespearean fashion, a royal is pretending to be a commoner, in order to woo the object of his love at first sight. A mean guardian, who has his own designs on this girl, tries to keep her under lock and key. The count in disguise enlists the barber/fixer to get him in. The Count does this in several more disguises. And, as we know will happen all along, boy gets girl—or rather, Count gets Countess.
Comic and light--anyone who saw the +/- 9 year old girls dressed like princesses in the pre-show lobby will likely agree this gets a G rating, not needing a PG caution.
All the performers’ voices were on par with the quality one expects and gets with any Lyric performance. This writer especially felt astonishment at the ability of soprano Marianne Crebassa’s voice to embrace all of us in the grand opera hall. Though she too showed a lot of comic chops as an actress, it is more the clarion quality to her sound that so enchants, at least for this writer. Those who treasure opera purely as a way to enjoy the range and timbre of a trained opera voice, will especially find much to savor in her performance.
An ideal match for first-time opera- goers and opera diehards alike, Lyric’s current production of The Barber of Seville should make it to everyone’s autumn entertainment short list.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Commedia in two acts in Italian
Libretto by Cesare Sterbini after the play of the same name by Pierre-Augustin Caron
Christopher Kenney, Lawrence Brownlee, Adam Plachetka, Alessandro Corbelli, Marianne Crebassa, Krzysztof Baczyk, Mathilda Edge, Eric Ferring, Jon Beal
Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis
Directors: Stefano Sarzani, Tara Faircloth
Set Designer: Scott Pask
Costume Designer: Catherine Zuber
Lighting Designer: Howard Harrison
Chorus Master: Michael Black
Wigmaster and Makeup Designer: Sarah Hatten
Thru October 27 (various days/times)
Lyric Opera House
20 North Wacker
For full price tickets and ticket availability visit Lyric Opera Website or Call 312.827.5600
Check for Half-Price Deals from Hot Tix:
Production Photos: Todd Rosenberg PHotography
Opening NIght photos: Peter Kachergis