The Barber of Seville | Opera Theatre of St. Louis (OTSL)

The-Barber-of-Seville 75This opera is perfect for first-time opera-goers and for returning opera lovers.

 

  

The-Barber-of-Seville 500

Hilarious, beautifully conducted, and surprisingly heartfelt, The Barber of Seville was the right choice to kick off Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s 40th anniversary season. The opera had a nearly sold-out show on opening night, May 23, at the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts.

It’s no wonder Giacchino Rossini’s famous 1816 opera is still performed today. The story is simple, yet engaging. The wealthy Almaviva (Christopher Tiesi) has his eyes set on Rosina (Emily Fons), a young woman bound by the harsh rule of her guardian, Dr. Bartolo (Dale Travis). With the help of the town’s most popular barber, Figaro (Jonathan Beyer), Almaviva must find a way around Bartolo to win the hand of Rosina. The catch: Bartolo is also looking to marry Rosina himself.

This opera is perfect for first-time opera-goers and for returning opera lovers. The story is easy to understand (and thankfully in English). Even in a familiar language, subtitles on screens beside the stage were there to help. Some of the music was recognizable even to a younger audience. The storytelling process made it an easy experience for first-timers, but the classic opera and vibrant performances captured the hearts of long-time opera fans.

No mistakes could be heard in the music conducted by St. Louis native Ryan McAdams. It was absolute perfection, as if every note took the audience further into the story. The stand-out voice of the night came from Beyer and his hilarious, charming portrayal of Figaro. Though Figaro is quite arrogant, he’s still somehow charismatic and loveable. Beyer did a fantastic job of balancing these traits.

The performance was packed with unexpected hilarious moments and surprises—there was a woman on stilts, and confetti was thrown at any moment that seemed even slightly appropriate to do so.

Few aspects about the opera were negative. The biggest complaint is that the opera seemed very era-confused, meaning it was hard to place a time period on it. Some costumes, including Figaro’s, the police, and the soldiers seemed as if they were from Shakespearean times. Then some costumes and sets, like the doctor’s office and houses, seemed like they were stuck in the 1970s. Then, out of nowhere, Almaviva is wearing Puma brand tennis shoes that look like they are from 2015. Now, it is specified that the time period is simply “before cellphones,” but that is very vague. The confused eras were often distracting.

As far as the subtitles go, they were helpful but they unfortunately only ran at certain times. If the opera is going to have subtitles, they should be there throughout the entire performance.

The performers, as well as anyone involved in the production, should be commended. The opera is long—nearly three hours—but the energy never wavered. For anyone interested in attending an opera, The Barber of Seville is the perfect one to see. | Emily Van de Riet

The Barber of Seville will be performed at OTSL on May 27 and 29, and on June 4, 6, 10, 14, 17, and 27. For ticket information, visit http://www.opera-stl.org/.

Photo: Ken Howard

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