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"Barber of Seville" opened tonight at Seattle Opera in an old production with a cleverly designed and used revolving set by John Stoddart but newly directed by Peter Kazaras with choreography by Rosa Mercedes.

Kazaras' direction was loaded with stage business, and between that and Jonathan Dean's astute captions, there was a lot of laughing from the audience. The singers were a remarkable trifecta of voice, looks, and acting ability, and they kept the opera moving. I've never seen Speight Jenkins cast for looks over voice, but he got everything this time, and you know you're in for a visual treat when the make-up and wig people can't hide the fact that Dr. Bartolo (Patrick Carfizzi) is a handsome devil.

Figaro was sung by a splendid young Australian baritone, Jose Carbo. His voice is rich and agile, and the top is open and especially beautiful. He handled the acting -- physical and vocal -- and even the bits of Flamenco with aplomb, and between his looks -- a cross between Peter Boal and the young Liam Neeson -- and charm, if he's not on the official list of bari-hunks, I nominate him now. His performance was a delight.

It was a real privilege to hear so many beautiful low voices in the same performance: Burak Bilgili's resounding Don Basilio, which he performed with perfect deadpan, Adrian Rosas, a Seattle Opera Young Artist who sounded as mature as anyone in the small role of the Sergeant -- the boom put us on our toes -- and Carfizzi's Dr. Bartolo, along with Carbo. Carfizzi also has a marvelous falsetto voice, which he used quite extensively, especially in the music lesson scene, and to great effect.

Sarah Coburn tossed out trills, runs, and high notes as if they were child's play. About ten seconds into "Una voce poco fa", I thought immediately of "La Sonnambula", which she'll sing in Vienna. (She'll also sing "L'Allegro" with Hei-Kyung Hong, Barry Banks, John Relyea, and the LA Philharmonic for Mark Morris Dance Group in LA at the beginning of May.)

Lawrence Brownlee was amazing from beginning to end. He can trill, do runs, and hit high notes, too, and delivered phrase after phrase of vocal ribbons. He sings the extremely difficult tenor aria that has been mostly dropped a few years after the premiere, and he hit it out of the ballpark, but my favorite part of his performance was the Act I serenade: it was heart-achingly beautiful, like being at a lieder recital.

The most impressive part of all was how the singers played with the rhythm throughout, while at the same time juggling the characterizations and stage business effortlessly. Dean Williamson deserves :flowers: for the way he supported the singers.

The opera will be broadcast via internet radio next Saturday, 22 January, at 7:30pm Pacific Time, 10:30pm Eastern Time, on KING-FM:


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I saw the first act of "Barber of Seville" on Sunday afternoon and mezzo Kate Lindsey was superb. It wasn't the fireworks version that Sarah Coburn performed the night before, but it was warm and sultry, and her acting was terrific. It was a performance as strong as any in the opening cast. David Adam Moore had his own charm as Figaro and was very solid. I suspect his performance will grow over his next few performances. Nicholas Phan -- according to a Seattle Opera blog post, it is pronounced "Pawn" -- has a beautiful voice, but not Brownlee's technique (yet). I find it interesting to hear singers when they have ideas and stretch; even if they don't make it completely, the intent and how much thought they've put into it is clear. Phan had plenty of imagination about how to shape the role -- nothing was boilerplate -- and I look forward to hearing him again in the future.

By Sunday afternoon, the one place the orchestra was ragged -- the beginning of the overture -- was already fixed. I didn't realize at the performances that Dean Williamson also played the pianoforte continuo, which he discusses here.

There is so much comedy in it, it's hard to describe it all, but I'd like to note a wonderful comic section with guitarist Michael Partington, who accompanies Almaviva in his serenade in Act I, as he gets the Glare of Death from Almaviva in response to his virtuoso improvisation.

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Speight Jenkins said in a post-performance Q&A that he found Jose Carbo when he asked Lawrence Brownlee, "Who have you enjoyed singing Figaro the most with?"

Jenkins commented, "But then, Larry is that way. He's always happy with other people making successes, which is not always the case. And Larry's an amazing person, he really is..."


~the 15-minute mark. He starts to talk about Carbo and Figaro at ~13:15.

Also, I just saw Peter Kazaras' director's video on the Seattle Opera website, and Carbo's sideburns are graying, so he's probably not as young as his list of role dates suggests. However, he's still on my bari-hunk list.

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I've said it before, and I will now say it again: Peter Kazaras is a brilliant stage director......and double that when it comes to comedy. If you've seen Kazaras speak, you know he has an ever-present, somewhat irreverent sense of humor. Marry that with Rossini's hugely funny "screen play" (to be fair the author of the original play, Beaumarchais, probably ought to get most of that credit), and rest it all on the long proven comic tradition of commedia dell'arte, and you have a potential big hit. Add the performers in this case, and it is a big hit.

Some may be put off by Kazaras' irreverence, but I loved, loved, loved it.......especially the "wind-up doll" antics at the end of the first act. At first I was thunder struck by the "out of character" shift Kazaras had his singers do at he end of Act I, but I quickly heard how every crazy, nutty thing Kazaras did was in the music. I have this image of Kazaras sitting at home listening to the music while his fertile sense of humor envisions gag after gag.....and high caliber gags at that!

Congratulations to everyone in this production, but most especially to Peter Kazaras for keeping me in stitches throughout this entire opera. I can't remember an opera that never allows its pace to flag as this production does so successfully. Go see it!

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