The IU Opera Theater opens its 2010-2011 season with a delightful and thought-provoking production of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia that’s sure to have audiences talking for weeks to come.
Order Versus Abandon; Tradition Versus Change
C. David Higgins‘ new sets and costumes vividly present the dramatic contrast between the stark, grey vacancy of Doctor Bartolo’s mechanically ordered house and the wildly colorful abandon of Figaro’s shop.
The dress, which he has also designed, ranges from blacks and grays for the Doctor and his household to a more colorful get-up for Figaro. He’s costumed a band of gypsies to resemble something like a sixties California rock band, and a companionable lady wears an eye patch like that of of one of the villainesses in Kill Bill II.
Somewhere in between are the young lovers. Count Almaviva moves through disguises in casual student dress, drunken soldier regimentals, and the cassock of a music teaching Franciscan before revealing himself in royal fashion. His beloved Rosina has fewer options, but she does alternate between grey and a warm pink.
Both the sets and the costumes are at the service of stage director Nicholas Muni’s desire to pit the chaotic modern features of Rossini’s tale of an independent businessman and young lover who triumph over conservative forces of entrenched commercial and social arrangements. Dramatic styles range all the way from stand-up-and-sing to the complicated tour-de-farce that closes the first act.
The Cast And Musicians
Marco Stefani cuts an appealing figure as the lovestruck Count. Jason Eck makes a nicely stiff schemer as the imperious Doctor Bartolo. Ashlieigh Guida sings well as his adaptable house maid. Hirotaka Kato sings strongly as Rosina’s music teacher, the demon organist Don Basilio. Nathaniel Brown is redoubtable as the leader of a madcap police force. John Orduna is colorful, witty and genuinely funny as the wily Barber. Angela Kloc is the single Rosina of the production; her singing is a reward.
Conductor Arthur Fagen has carefully tailored his orchestra’s playing to the production. The sound has the detail and warm richness of corduroy, rather than the precision of colder polished cotton and the tailoring made for a custom fit.
A Modest Proposal
I’d like to step outside my usual respectful role as reviewer to make a suggestion to the Opera Theater. Recruit a claque! No, I don’t want a group that overly rewards or ignores particular singers. The night I attended, there was plenty to appreciate, and the audience was clearly pleased. Nevertheless, the juice of potent vocal endings seemed to evaporate a bit as audience members waited politely; music that Rossini meant to be drowned out by applause drew to a close in silence. A nicely spaced bunch of ringers could be just the thing to jump start the clapping.