[Met Performance] CID:243110
Il Barbiere di Siviglia {363} Metropolitan Opera House: 10/23/1975.

(Debut: Costanza Cuccaro

Metropolitan Opera House
October 23, 1975


Figaro..................Kostas Paskalis
Rosina..................Costanza Cuccaro [Debut]
Count Almaviva..........Enrico Di Giuseppe
Dr. Bartolo.............Fernando Corena
Don Basilio.............Jerome Hines
Berta...................Shirley Love
Fiorello................Robert Goodloe
Sergeant................Robert Schmorr
Ambrogio................Peter Sliker

Conductor...............John Nelson

Director................Cyril Ritchard
Stage Director..........Patrick Tavernia
Designer................Eugene Berman

Il Barbiere di Siviglia received nine performances this season.

[Throughout this season, the aria sung by Rosina in the Lesson Scene was Contro un cor.]

Review of Mirko Tuma in the Woodbridge, New Jersey News-Tribune of November 4, 1975

Ritchard-Berman 'Barber'

If there is anything like a definitive operatic production - definitive for at least one generation - it is the Cyril Ritchard-Eugene Berman "Barber of Seville" at the Met. What a waste of money and energy it would be to mount a brand new production just because the "Barber" is popular and popular works receive a new production at the Met every so often. To revive the 10-year-old Ritchard-Berman masterpiece of elegance, wit and phenomenal satiric authenticity was a wise decision on the part of Met's artistic leadership. The Berman set, while essentially heavy and baroque, has a phenomenal touch of light caricature; the lit fans adorning Bartolo's townhouse in the first act for example, or Bartolo's nutty portrait in the old buffoon doctor's own salon which is a mixture of a parlor, a drawing room, a music room and a study.

Actor and movie and TV star Cyril Ritchard is a Broadway visitor to the Met whose hobby is opera. His staging of the "Barber" which Patrick Tavernia has faithfully revived this season was obviously a work of love. His research of the buffa and of the Rossini style was stupendous.

What remains, however, to be most impressive is the iron discipline of the production. The "Barber" when directed by a less precise and awesome director than Ritchard, often gets out of hand and turns into a pseudo-farcical, chaotic mess. There is none of the horsing-around in the Met version and still it is marvelously campy and zany and, I dare say, one of the funniest shows in the bankrupt "fun-city."

The revival has a new conductor in John Nelson of the New Jersey Choral Society, a marvelous new Figaro in the Greek baritone Kostas Paskalis, and a new soprano, Rosina, in the Italo-American coloratura Costanza Cuccaro. Nelson is a fine musician and he knows how to work with voices, but he lacks dynamism and the intuitive awareness of style, which, in a Rossini buffa may be a disaster. I don't mean to imply that Nelson's musical version of the "Barber" is disastrous - far from it, as a matter of fact. It is only somewhat uninspired.

The famous overture which is like sparkling champagne Friday night sounded or rather tasted like stale vermouth, and the storm music in the third act was nothing to rave about either. Yet, except for a few hesitant moments in the first Figaro-Rosina duet, he accompanied the singers well and the ensembles, which are the most difficult in all operatic literature, particularly the great finale of Act II, were done with precision, pep and even bravura.

The new Met Figaro, Kostas Paskalis reminds me of Tito Gobbi in his younger years. Paskalis has a brilliantly flexible lyrical baritone capable, however, of incredible volume. His "Largo al factotum" was a tour de force and a show stopper. Sheer virtuosity. In addition to his vocal gifts, Paskalis is young and extremely handsome and he is an admirable actor.

Costanza Cuccaro is able to reach coloratura heights - perfect F - of which most soprani only fantasize. She does it with utter clarity and total ease like the late Galli-Curci. Miss Cuccaro is a cute, charming and perky Rosina. I prefer the mezzo version though, and I am curious to hear Frederica Von Stade who is scheduled to appear later in the season.

If the production is definitive, so is our own Jerome Hines' Don Basilio and Fernando Corena's Doctor Bartolo. As reported last year when reviewing his Boris Godunov, Hines who is celebrating his 30th consecutive season at the Met, has never sung better. His gigantic basso grande has mellowed into a most refined instrument, he is capable of vocal nuances probably no other basso singing today is. You can hear his pianissimi all the way up at the peanut gallery, and his fortes sound like the very thunder from Olympus.

In addition to his vocal genius which Friday night made the otherwise undemonstrative audience cheer after his spectacular rendition of "La Calunnia," Hines has lunged into a fantastic operatic actor. The six-foot, seven-inch, lean and athletic New Jerseyan who has been better known tor his serious roles -Boris Godunov, Sarastro, Gurnemanz, Mephistopheles, and others - happens to have a formidable, dead-pan sense of humor. His Basilio is an original creation - he is not only the cheap and spineless gossipmonger and intriguer, but also a gauche pickpocket, a sly con-artist and obviously a voyeur. A phenomenal performance. A classic.

Corena is, of course, the king of the basso-buffos, and Bartolo may be his best role. Again. like Hines, he is many things not just a ridiculous baffo-pantalone of the commedia dell'arte, but also a dirty old man and a Molieresque miser. Yet there is a streak of humanity in Corena's Bartolo, to wit, the rather touching finale with Berta. Corena sings with spectacular ease and his "A un dottor della mia sorte" aria just cannot be interpreted with finer musicianship and with greater humor and pathos.

Shirley Love is a fine Berta, the housekeeper. She sings her "II vecchietto force moglie" with exquisite style and an appropriate touch of cynicism.

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