Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"The Barber of Seville" (was aired at Nats Park)


The Washington Opera presented Gioachino Rossini’s buffa “The Barber of Seville, or Useless Precaution” (“Il barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L'inutile precauzione”) in September, 2009, with a free jumbo-cast into Nationals Park. I missed that, but checked out the ArtHaus DVD of the 1988 performance by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Garbriele Ferro, with Cecilia Bartoli, David Kuebler, and Gino Quilico.

The best music in the 2-1/2 hour opera, for my money, is the overture, which I recall from my high school days. There is a little “storm and stress” in the thunderstorm scene, and a grand chorus, but a lot of the music sounds rhetorical and bit superficial.

Some of the elements of the plot, however, ring true. Figaro, the Barber, plays “uncle”, that is matchmaker, on request, and Count Almaviva pretends to be someone other than his true self. It’s is if someone like me had put on a wig because he had to.

The opera has a couple of arias that are sometimes sung in keys other than that which they were written (E major goes up to F, D major comes down to D-flat), which could lead to some odd transitions or tonal personality.

The mezzo-forte ending is underwhelming. (So it is with the Fourth Symphony of Sibelius.)

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