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Opera review: ‘The Barber of Seville,’ dir. Lindy Hume

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Leave it to the village barber, Figaro (John Moore), to help young star-crossed lovers out of a hairy situation.

This new-to-Seattle production brings to life a particularly comical, colorful, and cartoonish “The Barber of Seville,” while maintaining the dark underbelly and fantastic music that makes it such a moving opera. 

In “The Barber of Seville,” young love triumphs over the oppression of the older generation. Figaro assists Count Almaviva (Matthew Grills) in uniting with his love, Rosina (Sabina Puértolas), by helping her escape the tyranny of Dr. Bartolo (Kevin Glavin), her old, wealthy guardian who intends to marry her against her will. As archaic as the story may seem, it sadly remains relevant given the allegations of rampant sexual harassment being brought forth in today’s news.

“The Barber of Seville” is one of the most well-known operas of all time, with its music played often in popular culture. In the memorable opening of Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin Williams amusingly sang, “Largo al factotum.” There is even a Bugs Bunny cartoon with the score from “The Barber of Seville” in the background.

When performed live with conductor Giacomo Sagripanti, the score surpasses all possible expectations one could have after listening to it as a recording.

Seattle Opera’s “The Barber of Seville” is perfectly cast; the coloratura and patter of the principal singers were amazing. Puértolas was splendid as the bouncy, sweet, and cunning Rosina. Grills was hilarious as Count Almaviva, going in disguise to see his love at Dr. Bortolo’s flat. 

After stealing the show as Papageno in Seattle Opera’s recent “The Magic Flute,” Moore gave another charismatic performance as Figaro, reaffirming Seattle audiences his expert talent as a comedic opera singer. His archetypal character channels a boisterous, rock star, ladies’ man vibe, reminiscent of Rum Tum Tugger from “Cats” (originally, T.S. Elliott). When he broke the fourth wall during his grand entrance, Moore ignited a high-energy performance which would carry on throughout the rest of the show. 

Glavin used his booming voice and priceless facial expressions to superbly capture the essence of Dr. Bartolo.

Margaret Gawrysiak charmed the audience in her role as Berta and had moments of triumph despite the drudgery of being Dr. Bartolo’s maid.

Playing a non-singing role, sparks flew in the first act (literally) with Seattle burlesque star Marc Kenison’s (a.k.a. Waxie Moon) hilarious physicality as servant Ambrogio and continued throughout the performance.

The creative team including director Lindy Hume, assistant director and choreographer Daniel Pelzig, production designer Tracy Grant Lord, and lighting designer Matthew Marshall created a fantastic production with nine Spanish-inspired doors and 12 windows. The actors used these to create comedic moments (think Kramer’s entrances in Seinfeld) and facilitate seemingly endless movement onstage. The costumes were brightly colored and suitable for a joyous Fandango.

Composed in only 13 days by Gioachino Rossini at the age of 23, “The Barber of Seville,” premiered in 1816. It is the prequel to “The Marriage of Figaro” and has an Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini. “The Barber of Seville” runs 2 hours and 50 minutes with one intermission.

Attend Seattle Opera’s “The Barber of Seville” at McCaw Hall now through Oct. 28. Student rush tickets are $20 with sign-up and valid student ID on days of the performance when more than 50 seats are available.

The verdict: “The Barber of Seville” makes for a hysterical pre-Halloween romp.


Reach writer Mia T. Vogel at Twitter: @MiaTVogel

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