- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

Loaded down with scissors, razors, shaving cream and advice for the lovelorn, Figaro, Gioachino Rossini’s famous barber of Seville (“Il Barbiere di Siviglia”), is coming to George Mason University’s Center for the Arts this weekend, courtesy of the Virginia Opera.

Attending one of the company’s performances in Norfolk in late March, I found this production to be light, lively, colorful and fun, with the orchestra performing at the top of its game under conductor and artistic director Peter Mark. However, the singers at times played it a little too safe with Rossini’s vocal challenges.

The plot of Rossini’s 1816 masterpiece introduces the impulsive and handsome Count Almaviva, who’s attracted to Rosina, the beautiful young ward of nasty Dr. Bartolo. Abetted by Rosina’s toady music teacher, Don Basilio, the lascivious old man has decided to marry Rosina himself.

Almaviva hires Figaro, the wily town barber who just happens to have Bartolo as a customer, to help him overcome Bartolo’s obstacle course. Together they plot to save Rosina from a miserable fate.

With simple, serviceable sets and colorful costumes for all, the Virginia Opera’s production of “Barber” is easy on the eye. Also, Greg Ganakas’ uncomplicated stage direction allows plenty of room for the opera’s antics to unfold.

In the Norfolk performance, Jason Detwiler proved a witty Figaro, whose grace and wit enlivened every scene in which he appeared. His mellow baritone voice was pleasant, his lines well-formed, his enunciation excellent. He seemed a bit restrained, however, in Figaro’s famous aria, “Largo al factotum della citta,” which is generally a showstopper.

John Zuckerman’s Almaviva was regal yet impetuous, providing just the right proportion of romantic zeal and haughty condescension. His silvery, lyric tenor was nearly flawless but tended to lack heft in the ensembles.

As Rosina, soprano Manon Strauss Evrard excelled in her opening aria “Una voce poco fa,” and her performance was quite agreeable throughout, although we wish she’d been more adventurous in her vocal ornamentation.

Baritone Steven Condy (Bartolo) and bass Mark McCrory (Basilio) were amusing as Rossini’s villains. Mr. Condy, who is remembered here for his stint at Wolf Trap many years ago, is now renowned for his expertise in buffo roles. His broadly comic vocal and acting talents hugely enlivened this enjoyable but sometimes too-careful production.


WHAT: The Virginia Opera’s production of “The Barber of Seville” by Gioachino Rossini

WHERE: George Mason University’s Center for the Arts, Fairfax

WHEN: At 8 tonight and at 2 p.m. Sunday

TICKETS: $44 to $86

PHONE: 888/945-2468

WEB SITE: www.gmu.edu/cfa


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