Daniel Sutin, who sang the title role, held the audience in thrall as he described his activities with strong burnished bronzed tones in his “Largo al factotum.” As the beautiful and not-quite-so-meek Rosina, RenÈe Tatum sang with true bel canto tone, excellent taste, and fine musicianship.
Pierre Caron de Beaumarchais wrote his play, The Barber of Seville, in 1773, but could not get it publicly performed until two years later, because its politics offended French nobility. In the meantime it was often read privately read at artistic salons. Thus, when its content was becoming known without public performance, the authorities decided that they might as well allow it to be staged.
Beaumarchais invented the name Figaro for the character he modeled on Brighella in the traditional Italian Commedia dell’arte. The illegitimate son of Dr. Bartholo and his maid Marceline, Figaro is a clever flatterer and liar. He is usually is good humored and helpful. Only on rare occasions is he bitter and cynical, but in the play Figaro notes: “I must force myself to laugh at everything, lest I be obliged to weep.” It was the occasionally brazen actions of Figaro that upset the nobility. The opera audience does not see his bold tactics in Rossini’s work, but his actions in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro are quite revolutionary.
The first opera produced on Beaumarchais 1782 play was Giovanni Paisiello’s The Barber of Seville, which had a respectable run, but could not stand comparison with Gioachino Rossini’s 1816 opera Il barbiere di Siviglia ossia L’inutile precauzione (The Barber of Seville or the Useless Precaution). The latter has remained in the repertoire ever since despite other operas having been based on Beaumarchais’ play.
Robert McPherson as Almaviva with chorus
On June 6, 2014, Opera Las Vegas presented Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville with a cast drawn from the Metropolitan Opera and other major companies. Daniel Sutin, who portrayed the Barber, Figaro, recently sang the title role in Alban Berg’s Wozzeck at the Met. Although this was his first portrayal of the Rossini character, he commanded the stage with his presence. He held the audience in thrall as he described his activities with strong burnished bronzed tones in his “Largo al factotum.”
As the beautiful and not-quite-so-meek Rosina, RenÈe Tatum appreciated Figaro’s assistance in helping her resist marriage to her elderly, controlling guardian, Don Bartolo. Tatum, who has been in several major productions at the Met, sang with true bel canto tone, excellent taste, and fine musicianship. Veteran bass-baritone Peter Strummer was a hysterically funny Bartolo who actually thought he could get his young ward to marry him. He sang his patter aria at lightening speed but the words were always intelligible. Bartolo’s partner in crime was the conniving Don Basilio who sang an amusing, resonant, and totally villainous “La calunnia.”
Coloratura tenor Robert McPherson was as perfect an Almaviva as you could find anywhere. He not only sang all the notes with gorgeous tone, he decorated just enough of his lines to create maximum interest in his interpretation. I understand he will be at the Met next season and the New York audience will love his artistry. Baritone Mark Covey, the Fiorello, who is also a guitar virtuoso, accompanied the opening serenade from the stage. As the maid, Berta, soprano Stephanie Weiss seemed to be the most sensible person in the house. She sang with bright silver tones that contrasted well with Tatum’s golden legato.
Henry Price’s stage direction was perfect for this audience, many of whom had seen few operas. He told the libretto’s story in a realistic manner. For the finale, he showed the marriage of Rosina and Almaviva. Berta catches Rosina’s bouquet, but from the look on Bartolo’s face she will have to find another man to marry. The charming scenery by Dennis Hassan and Jim Lydon was placed on the Bayley Theater’s turntable so that the audience saw one set showing the inside of Bartolo’s home and another showing its outside.
Maestro Gregory Buchalter gave his artists enough room to create meaningful characterizations. Together with the singers, orchestra, and recitative harpsichordist Karen McCann, he gave us a wonderful rendition of Rossini’s beloved comic opera. This excellent performance bodes well for Opera Las Vegas, from which that city’s citizens and guests can hope to enjoy more great opera in the near future.
Cast and production information:
Rosina, RenÈe Tatum; Count Almaviva, Robert McPherson; Don Basilio, Philip Cokorinos; Don Bartolo, Peter Strummer; Figaro, Daniel Sutin; Fiorello (playing own guitar) Mark Covey; Berta, Stephanie Weiss; Notary, Erickson Franco; Ambrogio, David McKee; Sergeant, Eugene Richards;* Conductor, Gregory Buchalter; Harpsichord, Karen McCann; Stage Director, Henry Price; Costumes Malabar Ltd.; Scenery, Dennis Hassan and Jim Lydon; Production Coordinator, James Sohre.
* Member of Opera Las Vegas Young Artist Program.
image_description=RenÈe Tatum as Rosina [Photo by Richard Brusky]
product_title=Opera Las Vegas Presents Stellar Barber of Seville
product_by=A review by Maria Nockin
product_id=Above: RenÈe Tatum as Rosina
Photos by Richard Brusky