S.F. Opera’s ‘The Barber of Seville’ a funny, melodious treat 

click to enlarge The Barber of Seville
  • In his local debut, tenor Javier Camarena, center, is superb in the San Francisco Opera’s new production of “The Barber of Seville.”
Rossini’s delightful warhorse, the 1816 “The Barber of Seville,” is being served up by the San Francisco Opera as a delicious filet mignon.

At Wednesday’s premiere of a new production all the way from Lithuania, everything clicked in the evergreen comic opera packed with bouncy rhythms, romantic machinations and soaring melodies.

The first of 11 double-cast performances boasted a uniformly excellent cast, Giuseppe Finzi’s spirited conducting (Bryndon Hassmann on pianoforte and José Granero on clarinet solos were noteworthy), and impressive stage and costume designs that cleverly transformed from white to bright colors as the evening progressed.

Opening night’s cast — Lucas Meachem as Figaro and Isabel Leonard as Rosina — fulfilled high expectations. Meanwhile, Mexican tenor Javier Camarena as Almaviva made an outstanding local debut. Camarena, a gorgeous lyric tenor singing from the heart and accompanying himself on a guitar, is a keeper.

His co-stars also were first-class: Roof-shaking, deep-voiced Andrea Silvestrelli as Don Basilio; comic Catherine Cook as Berta; and the endearingly fussy and mean Alessandro Corbelli as Doctor Bartolo, as well as Adler Fellows Ao Li, A.J. Glueckert and Hadleigh Adams.

Although the San Francisco Opera calls it “completely new,” this United Nations of an opera production making its U.S. premiere comes from the Lithuanian National Opera, yet it was “inspired by” by Emilio Sagi’s production for the Teatro Real, Théâtre du Châtelet and Los Angeles Opera.

The set, an imposing structure bisecting the stage designed by Llorenc Corbella, is complex and amazing. Dancers and chorus members even entered and exited from beneath it.

Costumes designed by Pepa Ojanguren are charming and appealing, a lovely complement to Nuria Castejon’s choreography (right at home in Seville), performed beautifully by company dancers and even members of the opera chorus.

Just as in the 2003-06 famous (or infamous) Johannes Schaaf production of “Barbiere” in San Francisco, some shticks are overdone, but Rossini can take it (although he doesn’t need it). By the way, Schaaf’s choice of a Vespa for the fast-moving barber has been upgraded to a classic Jaguar XK-SS convertible.

The opera’s longevity is proven statistically, with 26 productions in the history of the War Memorial Opera House adding up to hundreds of performances, usually filling the huge theater.

REVIEW

The Barber of Seville

Presented by San Francisco Opera

Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Friday-Saturday, Nov. 26 and Nov. 29; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 2 p.m. Dec. 1

Tickets: $10 to $357

Contact: (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com

Note: Shortened and reduced-price “The Barber of Seville for Families” performances are at 2 p.m. Nov. 24 and Nov. 30.

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Bio:
Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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