Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Opera Theater of Connecticut Presents a Classic Barber

Laurentiu Rotaru (Dr. Bartolo) and Meredith Ziegler (Rosina) star
in Opera Theater of Connecticut’s performances of The Barber of Seville.

Photo by Alan Casavant.

Opera Theater of Connecticut, now in its 26th year, opened a run of four performances of The Barber of Seville in Andrews Memorial Theater on Main Street in Clinton Connecticut. General Director Kate Ford and Artistic Director Alan Mann presented a charming and very classical version of Rossini's influential masterpiece.

The opera was performed in English. English is much harder to sing than Italian because the vowels are seldom pure. Also, most singers have learned the Italian libretto, and nothing is harder than learning a new set of words to a song you already know.

Mann explained during his pre-event "Opera Talk" that until the mid 20th century that it was always standard practice to perform operatic comedies in the native language of the country in which it was performed, and he reminded us that even into the 20th century that the language opera was performed in was a complicated blend of traditions often independent of the language in which the opera was originally written.

Hearing The Barber of Seville in English allows one to immediately hear the influence this opera had on the operetta style, and Mann underlined this connection by incorporating complicated hand gestures, especially at the close of the first act.

Mann also projected supertitles. This allowed us to instantly frame long sentences and anticipate the precision with which the cast was able to articulate the text. It also allowed the wit, often created by the incredible speed of unfolding, to be very accessible to an American audience.

An emphasis on clarity of presentation extended into all details of this performance, which was remarkably free from the antics and shtick that are often find their way into performances of The Barber. This opera has a razor-sharp score and the personality of its characters is strong. This production allowed us an opportunity to hang out with these characters and get to understand them through the music itself, without distractions.

This cast was highly proficient. Tenor Matt Morgan was a colorful Count Almaviva, David Pershall was a crowd favorite as Figaro, and bass-baritone Laurentiu Rotaru brought many shades to the character of Dr. Bartolo.

But the star of the production was Meredith Ziegler as Rosina. The role of Rosina was intended to be performed by a mezzo, and the rich, warmness of sound that Ziegler produced was so much preferable to the sound of coloratura sopranos, who are often cast as Rosina.

Ziegler has golden instincts for comedy. She has a huge repertory of gestures and expressions and had the ability to direct attention within the ensemble in highly effective ways. Ziegler is the Lucille Ball of comic opera.

She sang "Contro un cor che accende amore," the act two "lesson aria" in Italian, and there was no substitute aria inserted into the lesson scene. This was a classic production in every detail.

The production was well received in Clinton and, as always with the Opera Theater of Connecticut, the place was packed. It was no simple matter to get to the Andrews Memorial Theater, because there was a torrential downpour of rain during the time most folks arrived. The railroad underpasses were closed because of flooding, and the event started about fifteen minutes late in order to accommodate delayed transportation. No problem. Mann kept us company, and the event was worth the wait.

Opera Theater of Connecticut will present The Barber of Seville in Andrews Memorial Hall in Clinton on Thursday, August 11 and Saturday, August 13 at 7:30 and Sunday, August 14 at 6:00. For additional information call 860-669-8999 or follow this link.

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