REVIEW OF STREAMING OF 2006 MET PRODUCTION
A long time ago, 2006 to be precise, the Metropolitan Opera started broadcasting some of its productions to theaters around the world. Without modesty, the broadcasts were called Live in HD and so they were.
The Barber of Seville was shown during the first season of broadcasts in March 2007 in a new production by Bartlett Sher with baritone Peter Mattei as Figaro, tenor Juan Diego Flores as Count Almaviva and mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato as Rosina. With a crew like that, you don’t need a second invitation to jump on board.
Now The Barber of Seville is by universal consent judged one of the best comic operas. From the famous overture through the arias and numerous ensemble pieces it teems with melodies. With Figaro’s famous “Largo al factotum” it sets a brisk pace that is modulated with comic scenes and love arias and duets that carry you along to the end with extraordinary elan.
The production was the first one for Bartlett Sher for the Met. He is a consummate man of the theatre, who turned his talents to making the production imaginatively comic with numerous brilliant touches throughout.
Mattei presented a youthful and full-blooded Figaro. He may be the city’s factotum, but he entertains himself first. Before he comes on stage, a pretty woman comes running ahead of him trying to put her shoes on and herself together. She was having fun. Figaro comes atop a cube van-sized cart with a woman pouring him drinks and preparing his morning snack. His cart is pulled by several women and is followed by a donkey. This man has a harem. His cart is opened displaying a veritable emporium.
Mattei is agile of voice and foot and his Figaro is a splendid presentation of the role.
Rosina, the ward of the nasty Dr. Bartolo and the love of the Count Almaviva (and the audience) is sung by mezzo Joyce DiDonato. The role was written for a mezzo but is frequently sung by sopranos. DiDonato showed that a mezzo is a perfect fit for the role with luscious low notes and delicious high notes. DiDonato has the spunk and attractiveness that we want and expect of the girl who swears that she will get her way. She does, of course, and everyone approves enthusiastically.
Bass-baritone John Del Carlo is a first rate comic talent and singer and he excels in the role of Dr. Bartolo, the old codger who wants to marry Rosina and is out-witted by her with the help of Figaro and Almaviva. He does splendid work in his patter aria. He combines vocal, facial and body expressions in a superb amalgam for a wonderful performance.
Michael Yeargan’s unrealistic set uses half a dozen or so moveable doors that are placed in various places. There are pieces of necessary furniture, of course, but there is no attempt to create any realism. The opera has such energy that nothing more is required.
There is a platform extending in front of the audience and behind the conductor. Some of the action takes place there bringing the performance closer to the audience.
Much of the success of the production, in addition to the outstanding singers, belongs to Bartlett Sher. He is a man of the theatre and knows how to create stage business that is highly entertaining. Dr. Bartolo has a servant, Ambrogio, played to hilarious effect by Rob Besserer. His is a silent role, but Sher makes the most of him. Ambrogio is permanently crouched and looks as if he is asleep whether standing or walking. He falls and is pushed around and a tree falls on him. All fine comic business.
When Figaro sings of his many talents, Sher has him illustrate them like pulling out a tooth. When Figaro needs a guitar, a door opens, and he is handed one.
Maurizio Benini conducts the Met Opera Orchestra at a brisk pace rounding off a perfect evening of entertainment and Covid-19 be damned.
The 2007 telecast of The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini was streamed by the Metropolitan Opera on October 19, 2020. For more information visit: www.metoper.org