Opera Review

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    ‘Barber’ offers Figaro lightBy Juliet Schoen

    Staff Writer

    Vladimir Chernov provides the big surprise in the Los Angeles Opera production of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.” The Russian baritone is associated with opera’s tormented heroes or heavies such as Iago in “Othello” but here he prances about, mugs and steals the scenes in a rather charming manner. We knew he could sing, but we didn’t know he could dance.

    There are few other surprises in the opera. The two sets by Mauro Pagano are pretty and serviceable, one showing the outside of the Bartolo casa and the other the room inside. (We miss the barbershop with its fireman’s pole from a previous production.)

    “The Barber of Seville” is based on the first of a trilogy of plays by Beaumarchais and tells how Figaro helps Count Almaviva outwit Dr. Bartolo and win the hand of his ward, Rosina. Much earlier, Mozart had the tackled the second episode in “The Marriage of Figaro,” where Figaro hoodwinks the count.

    “Barber” is always a delight with its torrent of beautiful melodies including solos, duets, trios and way on up to a septet. The singers are mostly new to this opera company, but they all acquit themselves admirably. John Osborne, who plays Count Almaviva, has had a busy career since his debut in 2001. He has a light, pleasant tenor voice and captures the comedic aspects of his role. The saucy Rosina is mezzo-soprano Carmen Oprisanu who rises to the occasion in her singing of the opera’s famous coloratura pieces. Baritone Bruno Palo, an international star, knows his way around the role of the pompous Dr. Bartolo.

    Simone Alberghini, the Don Basilio, is a well traveled bass who does justice to the famous “Calumny” aria, while Susanna Guzman, a Los Angeles favorite, is a delight as the maid, Berta. David Babinet, Dietmar Konig and Gregorio Gonzalez round out the cast

    Michael Hampe, the director, choreographs each scene to earn the most laughs. The policemen who arrive to quell a stormy argument could have trained with Gilbert and Sullivan. Back again to conduct the Los Angeles Opera is Gabriele Ferro, and an excellent job he does.

    Although this “Barber” doesn’t bristle with excitement, it is a cut above most productions.