Lyric Opera Cleveland's Barber of Seville,
reviewed by KELLY FERJUTZ
If it's summer in Cleveland, it's time for Lyric Opera and their welcome additions to the cultural scene. Wednesday evening their season began with a slightly uneven, but still enjoyable performance of the 'oldest Italian comic opera never to have fallen out of the repertoire' -- The Barber of Seville by Gioacchino Rossini. Since the very first performance in Rome on 20 February 1816, the opera has delighted audiences on every continent, and probably in every language possible.
Lyric Opera sings in English, sometimes with surtitles, sometimes not. This opera is without, and prompts my biggest quibble with the production. Somehow, singing in the native language makes for easier recognition of the music, and not all translations work equally well. At least if it's in Italian (or German or whatever) and you don't speak that language, you can just relax and enjoy the music. But sung in English, which is brutally difficult to understand in almost any circumstance, the slightest bit of difficulty in comprehension rapidly multiplies, leaving the listener exceedingly frustrated. I heard this sentiment expressed by more than a few people Wednesday evening, so it is to be hoped that in future, surtitles will be used. (Surprisingly enough, they've announced that surtitles will be used in the final production: The Fall of the House of Usher, based on Edgar Allan Poe's famous story, which was written in English, in the first place!)
Brian K Johnson as Figaro in the Lyric Opera Cleveland production of 'The Barber of Seville'. Photo © 2005 Steve Zorc
Quibble aside, it was good to see Lyric's 'stock company' all together on stage again. Baritone Brian Keith Johnson as the barber Figaro is pure delight. Tenor Timothy Culver sang and acted his various roles (Almaviva, Lindoro and Don Alonso) with majesty, exuberance or hoppy goofiness as required. As Dr Bartolo, bass-baritone Jason Budd endows the portly, aging man with energy and comic amorous antics. There was no problem whatever in hearing them; if anything they might have been a bit too loud, but it was not always possible to understand them, especially in the rapid-paced patter songs.
Timothy Culver as Almaviva (left) and Jason Budd as Dr Bartolo in the Lyric Opera Cleveland production of 'The Barber of Seville'. Photo © 2005 Steve Zorc
These three gentlemen have appeared numerous times together in Lyric Opera productions, and share a sense of ensemble that lends a smoothness to the action.
Copyright © 28 June 2005
Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA