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Reviews

16 Nov 2016

Barber of Seville [Hollywood Style] in Los Angeles

On Saturday evening November 12, 2016, Pacific Opera Project presented Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville in an updated version that placed the action in Hollywood. It was sung in the original Italian but the translation seen as supertitles was specially written to match the characters’ Hollywood identities.

Pacific Opera Project: The Barber of Seville, Hollywood style

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Bartolo checks out the Music Teacher. [Photo courtesy of Pacific Opera Project, copyright Martha Benedict]

 

The Ebell Club in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles has a modest sized hall in which Pacific Opera Project (POP) often presents opera. The atmosphere is casual and the audience is usually seated at tables eating hors d’oeuvres and drinking wine. Music Director Stephen Karr sees to it that the music is taken seriously and Artistic Director Josh Shaw makes sure the action and the English supertitles keep their 2016 audience entertained.

Stage Director Josh Shaw designed the sets, which showed Rosina’s balcony, Bartolo’s living room, and Figaro’s shop. He had some short scenes played in front of a curtain. Above the stage were not only English titles but also videos and notes regaling the characters’ Hollywood exploits.

Figaro, Bernardo Bermudez, was the hairdresser who could always find his clients clean samples of hair or anything else needed to pass a drug test. His Figaro was so amusing that he almost distracted the audience from his robust singing. As his servant, Fiorello, Kevin Blickfeldt was a rollocking misfit.

Rosina, mezzo-soprano Meagan Martin, was a lovely young starlet who was anything but innocent, as she proved by the stripper-pole choreography she danced while singing “Una voce poco fa.” She sang with a small but sweet sound that was even all the way up and down her wide range.

The main character in this production, however, was Lindoro, sung by coloratura tenor Sergio Gonzalez. His well-focused sound made his virile voice sound larger than it actually was. New on the scene, he has an attractive tonal quality and a good sense of comic timing. Thus, he made an amusing drunk and a hilarious, bewigged “lady” music teacher. Don Bartolo, portrayed by bass-baritone E. Scott Levin, was Rosina’s leering manager who wanted her--and the money she could earn--for himself. The fall guy in this opera, Levin is an old friend to POP. We remember his riotous interpretation of Maestro Biscoma Strappaviscere in Donizetti’s Viva la Mamma.

Basilio, sung by bass Phil Meyer, was once the skin-tight leopard-print-pants-wearing lead singer of the famous group, Aluminum Blymp. At this point, however, he is a caustic-tongued music teacher who loves getting high on cocaine. He sang with a dark sound while spewing calumnies with comic touches. Although singing the comprimario role of Berta in this presentation, Melinda Ehrlich is a fine soprano who has sung leading roles with local companies and will be Juliet in the Center stage production of Romeo and Juliet. She added a strong top line to the ensembles. Wearing the shortest possible pants, Keystone cop wannabe Christopher Anderson-West’s Sergeant fainted when confronted with true nobility and he made the end of the opera turn out right.

For the better part of three hours the Ebell Club audience smiled, tittered, and guffawed at the antics of this talented cast. At the beginning of this review I mentioned that the music was always rendered with the utmost serious attention to detail. POP usually has a small orchestra, but this time Music Director Stephen Karr and Assistant Conductor Zach Neufeld played a knuckle-busting piano four hands version of Rossini’s intricate score that captured almost all of the original sonorities. The titles said the arrangement was by Arnold Schoenberg, but Karr and Neufeld hit the right keys and their music sounded just like unadulterated Rossini! This was a fun production that profited from the intimacy and casual ambience of the setting.

Maria Nockin


Cast and production information:

Cast and Production Information:

Music Director, Stephen Karr; Director and Designer, Josh Shaw; Costume Designer, Maggie Green; Assistant Conductor, Zach Neufeld; Figaro, Bernardo Bermudez; Count Almaviva, Sergio Gonzalez; Don Basilio, Phil Meyer; Fiorello, Kevin Blickfeldt; Rosina, Meagan Martin; Don Bartolo, E. Scott Levin; Berta, Melinda Ehrlich; Sergeant, Chris Anderson-West; Chorus: William Grundler, John David Wiese, and Matthew Ian Welch.

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