[Met Performance] CID:351644
New Production
Il Barbiere di Siviglia {551} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/10/2006., Sirius Broadcast live

(Debuts: Bartlett Sher, Catherine Zuber, Christopher Akerlind, Rob Besserer

Metropolitan Opera House
November 10, 2006 Broadcast/Streamed

New Production


Figaro..................Peter Mattei
Rosina..................Diana Damrau
Count Almaviva..........Juan Diego Flórez
Dr. Bartolo.............John Del Carlo
Don Basilio.............Samuel Ramey
Berta...................Wendy White
Fiorello................Brian Davis
Sergeant................Joel Sorensen
Ambrogio................Rob Besserer [Debut]

Conductor...............Maurizio Benini

Production..............Bartlett Sher [Debut]
Set designer............Michael Yeargan
Costume designer........Catherine Zuber [Debut]
Lighting designer.......Christopher Akerlind [Debut]

[In this season's performances of Barbiere, Rosina sang Contro un cor in the Lesson Scene.]

Production a gift of The Sybil B. Harrington Endowment Fund

Broadcast live on Sirius Metropolitan Opera Radio
Streamed live at metopera.org

Il Barbiere di Siviglia received fourteen performances this season

Production photos by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Review of Fred Cohn in the February 2007 issue of OPERA NEWS

Bartlett Sher's new "Barbiere" at the Met had the earmarks of a hit, with ovations literally stopping the show at key moments.

Director Bartlett Sher brought Broadway know-how to his new Met production of "Il Barbiere di Siviglia." Its November 10 [first night] featured a cast of able singers, fully engaged in the task at hand, displaying the responsiveness and physical energy of a theater troupe. They were aided by a conductor, Maurizio Benini, who seemed to breathe with his performers and treated his orchestra as a full participant in the action.

The production had the earmarks of a hit, with ovations literally stopping the show at key moments. Michael Yeargan's sets consisted of a series of yellow-washed doors moving against a dappled background of Magritte-like abstraction, reminding us that we weren't seeing "Seville" but a theatrical construction devised to bring "Barbiere" to life. There were no "scenes" as such; instead, a continual shifting of the set's units created a fluid series of effects. The design may have undermined our sense of Rosina's confinement - with the very walls of her residence dancing around her, it was difficult to think of her as Bartolo's captive - but it was handsome and lively. The creative team's happiest innovation was a passerelle, a "Hello Dolly"-style runway built out from the proscenium around the orchestra pit. Peter Mattei as Figaro strode down it in a victory strut after his tour de force rendition of his entrance aria; both Samuel Ramey (Basilio) and Juan Diego Flóres (Almaviva) ended their big numbers there, bringing their presence and voices into the audience's midst, to tumultuous effect. You could almost smell the greasepaint.

Some of the other directorial impositions might well have been edited out. Sher indulged in the modern cliché of using the overture as accompaniment to stage action, raising the curtain halfway through to reveal an extraneous bit of pantomimed business between Dr. Bartolo and his manservant. The barber's stall was a circus wagon drawn by a mule and a bevy of pneumatic lady supers. It was clever to raise the set's back wall during the Act I finale, setting the cast against a white cyclorama, thus shifting our attention from the action, now arrested, to Rossini's zany depiction of the dramatic moment. What was less felicitous was the huge anvil lowered from the flies to make the text's metaphor literal. Lively invention is preferable to dull habit, certainly, but the hyperactivity onstage often became wearying.

One longed for more attention to the vein of sentiment that runs through the
work. It didn't help that in its first cast, the production revived the tradition of using a soprano leggiero - in this case, Diana Damrau - as Rossini's heroine, a decision that has dramatic as well as musical implications. The soprano variants - which extend not just to Rosina's line but to some of the accompaniment for "Una voce poco fa" and "Contro un cor" suggest an attention-seeking hoyden, rather than a wily but alluring young woman, an impression buttressed by Damrau's brilliant but chilly soprano.

The other principals, though, could hardly have been improved upon. Mattei presented an unconventional Figaro-not the usual jolly accomplice, but a macho working man whose assertiveness suggested the class resentment that emerges in Beaumarchais's sequel. Vocally he was impeccable, his baritone big, vigorous and almost improbably juicy. Flóres cut a wonderfully ardent figure as Almaviva unmasked; in disguise, he proved surprisingly madcap. His dazzling singing, of course, was hardly surprising at all. He turned Almaviva's "Cessa di piú resistere," for so many years not even a part of the Met's standard performing text, into the opera's culminating moment- quite literally its "eleven-o'clock number." How could we have done without it for so long?

John Del Carlo seems born to play Bartolo, his great frame and huge basso buffo comically out of proportion to the doctor's smallness of spirit. Ramey was a sly, snaky Basilio. Rossini may be the composer who has most consistently brought out the bass's strengths; on this night, his layered dynamics in "La calunnia" created a crescendo that brought down the house. Wendy White squeezed more music out of Berta's "aria di sorbetto" than is usually heard. One more performer needs to be mentioned: veteran modern dancer Rob Besserer in the mute role of the servant, Ambrogio. During that superfluous prologue, one feared the worst for this bit of directorial intervention, but during the remainder of the evening, Besserer deftly added to the bustle onstage without ever hogging attention.

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