Opera Review: This ‘Barber’ is a cut above

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We were looking forward to hearing Juan Diego Florez, the tenor of the hour, in Rossini’s “e” at the Music Center. Alas, we picked one of three performances with an alternate cast. However, the production is so spectacular and enjoyable, any singers will do, but these alternates were excellent. Often, when directors or designers try to mess around with beloved operas, they fail miserably. Here a stylistic approach, with outstanding scenery and costumes, is true to the integrity of the story. Seville, of course, is the place where all the chicanery takes place. The fanciful ambience is not strictly Spanish but there are hints and references. Wit and imagination imbue the entire production of Los Angeles Opera.

The leading roles were well sung by Lucas Meachem as Figaro, Dmitry Korchak as Count Almaviva, Sarah Coburn as Rosina and Philip Cokorinos as Doctor Bartolo. They were all able to manage the difficult coloraturas and, just as important, get involved in the shenanigans with good acting. Figaro, the factotum, tries to help the count win Rosina, outwitting her tyrannical guardian who wishes to marry her. The principals were aided and abetted by a rollicking group of townspeople and servants, notably Ryan McKinny, Daniel Armstrong and Ronnita Nicole Miller.

White and black dominate in the first scenes, with many of the costumes cheerfully adorned with polka dots or stripes. But the grand finale is a riot of color with the entire cast wearing new attire (even the police officers are outfitted with colored gloves). Opera should satisfy the sense of sight as well as hearing, and this no-expenses-spared production succeeds completely.

Applause, applause for Emilio Sagi, in charge of production; Javier Ulacio, director; Llorenc Corbella, scenery designer; and Renata Schussheim, in charge of the costuming. Michele Mariotti conducted the Los Angeles Opera orchestra with skill, giving support to the singers and sheen to the great arias that follow one after another. Everything meshed to enhance the humor and wit of this comic masterpiece.

In marked contrast to “The Barber” was the recent production of Handel’s “Tamerlano,” which boasted a great cast of singers, but was given a senseless production. Tamerlano, the powerful Tatar emperor, wears a regular business suit, as do the others, except for his prisoner, who wears a colorful Turkish costume. The opportunity for an exotic setting is gone, replaced by what looks like the lobby of a modern office building!

The highly embellished arias were extremely well sung by Placido Domingo and the amazing countertenor, Bejun Mehta. Others who fared well were Sarah Coburn, Patricia Bardon, Jennifer Holloway and Ryan McKinny. Back to the drawing board on this one, please.