Producing opera in a small city is no easy matter. And producing it successfully is even harder. Coeur d’Alene’s Opera Plus is a relatively new company that has managed to vault both those hurdles. The Opera Plus production of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” I heard Sunday afternoon was a pleasure both to hear and to watch.
Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” – most of us know it by its English title, “The Barber of Seville” – has been acknowledged as perhaps the best opera comedy by audiences and opera composers alike. No wonder. It has beautiful arias, delightfully funny ensembles and orchestration that shows singers to their best advantage and sustains the comic mood.
Opera Plus’ production had a good cast drawn largely from the opera apprenticeship programs in Seattle, San Francisco and Santa Fe, N.M. The principals – baritone Andrew Garland in the title role of Figaro the barber, soprano Christina Muir as the coy and wily Rosina, tenor Joseph Muir as her love-sick admirer Count Almaviva and Todd Robinson as Rosina’s lecherous guardian Dr. Bartolo – are good-looking and good-sounding performers still near the beginnings of their careers.
Christina Muir showed a very impressive command of Rosina’s wide melodic skips and a nice way with the ornamental writing.
Joseph Muir sounded well in his middle and lower range, but when the count’s part went into his upper range or grew loud, Muir was inclined to let the pitch sag.
Garland had a winning way with Figaro as an agile actor and singer. I expect the opera world will hear more of Garland.
Robinson played up the pomposity of Dr. Bartolo and was excellent in comic ensembles. He could sing, too.
I was impressed, too, with bass Konstantin Kvach as the busybody music teacher Don Basilio and Julie Powell as Bartolo’s pert maid Berta.
Stage director Brenda Nuckton managed to make good comedians of her (mostly) young cast in a way that stopped short of insufferable slapstick. I particularly admired the scene in which Basilio advises Bartolo on the effective use of slander as it builds from the merest whisper into a cannon’s roar. Nuckton also managed to sustain visual interest in the full cast ensembles that end each act.
The orchestra Sunday afternoon sometimes sounded as though a few more rehearsals might have been in order. David Demand conducted.
Schuler Auditorium at North Idaho College has a big stage that was filled effectively with Mark Faulkner’s large but elegantly simple set that converted convincingly from the facade of the house of Dr. Bartolo to his music room interior.
The costumes, some of them borrowed from the Utah Opera, were effective as well.
Sunday afternoon’s large audience was rightly appreciative. I look forward to future Opera Plus productions.
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