Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Atlanta Opera
GIOACHINO ROSSINI is credited for pointing out that all kinds of music are good, except the boring kind. Stage Director Michael Shell took this to heart when devising the concept for his Barbiere di Siviglia, which was produced by the Atlanta Opera this spring (seen March 13). Shell’s take, in collaboration with scenic designer Shoko Kambara and costume designer Amanda Seymour, involved the integration of randomness, inspired by the films of Pedro Almodóvar, infused with the piquancy of Seville. A shuffling butler in shades, a smattering of chicken paraphernalia, and a groovy 1970s veneer are just a few examples of how this Barbiere was invigorated amidst a cast of ebullient singers.
Assistant conductor and chorus master Rolando Salazar conducted just one show of the run, the Sunday matinee, borrowing the podium from Arthur Fagen. Salazar and the Atlanta Opera Orchestra seemed overly zealous during Act I, overshadowing the singers, including baritone Joseph Lattanzi’s rendition of “Largo al factotum,” but self-corrected by Act II. Unfortunately, Lattanzi, a local favorite, played Figaro with gusto, but fell short on the high notes, initiating descending portamenti much too soon.
The rest of the cast was bright and beautiful. Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Lauricella oscillated between the feisty handling of her guardian Doctor Bartolo, played by the portly comedian Giovanni Romeo, and swooning affect opposite Lindoro/Almaviva, sung by the charismatic tenor Taylor Stayton. Lauricella’s fioratura emerged effortlessly from a voice that was unforced and convivial. Likewise, her suitor, Stayton, who has sung the role several times and once before in this this particular production, expertly threaded the needle between the two poles of bel canto. The tenor’s “Se il mio nome,” accompanied by onstage guitarist John Huston, was wistful and perfect.
The sprightly, cigarette-smoking Berta, sung by Cadie J. Bryan, was a provocative addition to the show, her colorful, mute presence annoyingly interjected into many scenes, but she contributed to the randomness that director Shell had planned. Bryan’s stand and sing rendition of “Il vecchiotto cerca moglie,” lit up the stage, her Berta here as electric as a Zerbinetta. David Crawford played a cheesy, robust Don Basilio, rounding out a cast that managed to find a rare alchemy among themselves that was palpable to the audience; this was best exemplified by the invigorating ensemble number, “Buona sera, mio signore.” Atlanta Opera’s team understood how to lift Rossini’s nineteenth-century music and comedy off the page in a heady fashion; it was anything but boring. —Stephanie Adrian