So I’ve Heard
, December 2009
Comes yet another supremely delicious bel-canto comedy from the L.A. Opera’s purveyors of the magic touch, this one the finest of that entire repertory of patter song, giggling ensemble and wonderfully giddy maximum-sense nonsense. There’s something about the magic of this enchanting repertory—a message that has caught hold with this home-town, unpredictable opera company. This time, under sublime. California-perfect skies, Rossini’s tidy, splendidly crafted comedy The Barber of Seville achieves a kind of perfection, galvanized by Nathan Gunn’s great opening “Largo al factotum” held in thrall from then on by the full, cheering house.
There was perfection in director Emilio Sagi’s staging, superbly balanced to suggest personal values as well as comedic: the sense of absurdity as well as genuine loss by debuting basso buffo Bruno Pratico as the thwarted suitor Bartolo, the subtle chicanery in Andrea Silvestrelli’s thunderous yet vulnerable Basilio the sly fixer—a stupendous re-creation following last season’s hilarious Gianni Schicchi—the marvelous mix of agile mischief and genuine passion in the Rosina of Joyce DiDonato in her long-overdue debut. As the questing Almaviva another welcome debutor, Peruvian tenorino Juan Diego Flores delivered a show-stopping performance of the opera’s killer final aria “Cessa di piu Resistere” often omitted out of mercy but this time reinstated in full glory.
All told, a superb, superbly comic three hours of opera often dealt with as overripe burlesque, here— in the work of debuting conductor Michele Mariotti and director Emilio Sagi—managed with love, respect and an awareness of its antic wealth.