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The Canadian Opera Company dispels Toronto’s winter blues with adelicious production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. There mayhave been the odd, minor glitch but this was a highly enjoyable and splendidproduction.

The opera has a vocal, musical and comic momentum that can be built onwith sufficient changes of pace that can take and keep the audience entertainedin the wonderful world of Seville of no particular era. There we find Dr.Bartolo, an old fool who wants to marry his lovely ward Rosina for her moneyand much more. There is Almaviva, a handsome count who is stricken by Rosina’sbeauty and has fallen hopelessly in love with her. There is Basilio, a foolishand corrupt singing teacher and, of course, the incomparable, versatile,ever-inventive town barber and factotum Figaro.

Rossini provides some incredible music, arias and ensemble piecesintegrated with comic scenes nonpareil. All you need is the musicians and castto deliver. Let’s start with the highly alluring Rosina in the hands and vocalchords of mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo. A Toronto girl! We get to know her (andlove her) when she introduces herself in her cavatina “Una voce poco fa.” Withenergy, panache and sumptuous singing D’Angelo’s Rosina tells us that she is inlove with Lindoro and swears that she will have him. She has a thousand tricksup her sleeve and she will not be trifled with by nobody, no how. And the musiclesson where she and Lindoro practice an aria is a scrumptious love scene.  Clear?

Lindoro is the Count Almaviva in disguise and Argentinian tenor SantiagoBallerini better be good to deserve a woman like Rosina. Ballerini rises to theoccasion with a mellifluous midrange and well achieved high notes. At thebeginning, we had a few worrisome moments when we thought we may not be able tohear him (we have to hear you even if you are singing pianissimo) but that concernwas dissipated quickly and he turned in a fine performance.   

The ardent lovers have opposition to overcome but they also have apowerful ally and the most famous facilitator in opera, Figaro. Italianbaritone Vito Priante as Figaro gets one of the most famous entrances with his“Largo al factotum,” a tongue twister of a cavatina that reflects the masterschemer. He is far more than a mere factotum. Priante displays comic talent,vocal versatility and gives a superb performance.

Doctor Bartolo is the old geezer who wants the young beauty. He is acomic figure who brings the laughs and has some sonorous singing to do. Italianbaritone Renato Girolami does both in a hugely creditable performance. He sangthe role in the 2015 production of The Barber of which this is arevival.

His not-too-reliable partner is Basilio done exceptionally well byAmerican bass-baritone Brandon Cedel. He is a reprehensible chap, a masterslanderer and a treacherous friend and Cedel sings the role with vocal resonanceand agility.

Canadian mezzo-soprano Simona Genga kicks butt in her performance asRosina’s old maid servant Berta. It’s a small role but she has the beautifularia that parodies love as a crazy mania in “Il vecchiotto cerca moglie” (The old man seeks a wife). She did awonderful job and the audience loved her.

The chorus was impressiveand the COC Orchestra equally good. The conductor is Speranza Scappucci, a woman. Regretfully and shamefully, weare a long way from not noticing the gender of the conductor but at least thereis some progress.

The productionis directed by Joan Font with set and costumes by Joan Guillén. The directingwas excellent for the reasons stated above. But what was the woman sitting onthe right side of the stage during the opening scene doing? She never reallyleaves the stage and she goes from a minor annoyance to being ignored but Fontno doubt had something in mind when she put her on,

The costumes weremostly appropriate if not time sensitive. The military uniforms did the job,Rosina wore a nice white dress and the rest were of little concern. But whatwere those growths on the top of the heads of some of the servants? Are theytufts of hair or Italian sausages?

The set at thebeginning shows a vaguely black background and a structure on one side. Changeof lighting turns it into Rosina’s residence. Once we are inside her house, themusic and singing carry us through and the set becomes of secondary interest.

The gripes areminor compared to the thoroughly enjoyable production that got a well-deserved standingovation.


The Barber of Seville by Giacomo Rossini with libretto by CesareSterbini is being performed eight times between January 19 and February 7, 2020at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario. Tel:  416-363-6671.

January 31, 2020

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