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A sidesplitting Barber of Seville outshines a confusingly boring Carmen in Santa Fe – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United States Santa Fe Opera 2022 [1]: (HS)

Michael Fabiano (Don José) and Isabel Leonard (Carmen) © Curtis Brown/Santa Fe Opera

1.8.2022: Rossini, The Barber of Seville: Soloists, Refrain and Orchestra of Santa Fe Opera / Iván López-Reynoso (conductor), Crosby Theater, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Director – Stephen Barlow
Scenic and Costume designer – Andrew D. Edwards
Lighting – Christopher Akerlind
Choreographer – Mitchell Harper

Rosina – Emily Fons
Depend Almaviva – Jack Swanson
Figaro – Joshua Hopkins
Dr. Bartolo – Kevin Burdette
Don Basilio – Nicholas Newton
Berta – Murrella Parton
Fiorello – Kyle Miller

2.8.2022: Bizet, Carmen: Soloists, Refrain and Orchestra of Santa Fe Opera / Harry Bicket (conductor).

Director – Mariame Clément
Scenic and Costume designer – Julia Hansen
Lighting – Duane Schuler
Choreographer – Mathieu Guilhaumon

Carmen – Isabel Leonard
Don José – Michael Fabiano
Escamillo – Michael Sumuel
Micaëla – Sylvia D’Eramo
Zuniga – David Crawford
Dancaȉre – Luke Sutliff
Remendado – Anthony León
Morales – Darren Lekeith Drone
Frasquita – Magdalena Kuźma
Mercédès – Kathleen Felty

The administrators of each The Barber of Seville and Carmen injected twenty-first-century tropes into their new productions at Santa Fe Opera. London-based Australian Stephen Barlow pumped vitality and life into Barber by taking his cues from Rossini’s music. Mariame Clément’s thought for staging Carmen dulled the passions and sometimes clashed with Bizet’s rating.

Even with a starrier forged (Isabel Leonard and Michael Fabiano within the lead roles) and a brand-name conductor (the corporate music director Harry Bicket), Carmen paled as compared. If The Barber of Seville forged lacked that degree of star energy, it delivered big-time on each musical values and – particularly – humor. The efficiency heard Monday night needs to be the funniest I’ve ever skilled in opera.

Barlow engineered a nonstop mixture of bodily hijinks and on-point confrontations that nearly at all times match snugly with Rossini’s bubbly music.

Setting the tone, an orange tree trimmed as a large mustache stood out in opposition to Santa Fe’s signature curtain-time sundown (seen by way of the stage). Because the overture galloped to its end, a large head rose up behind the mustache and rolled into place, flanked by Spanish archways with columns painted like barber poles. In Andrew D. Edwards’ set, the pinnacle (based mostly on Rossini’s) served as Dr. Bartolo’s dwelling, the eyes as home windows, and the entire thing rotated to disclose the inside. Rosina’s room was up a flight of stairs, common as a giant hen cage – an ideal metaphor for her scenario.

The plot facilities on an older Dr. Bartolo lusting after Rosina, his beautiful younger ward. She has fallen for the rich Depend Almaviva, who has launched himself as ‘Lindoro’, a penniless scholar. Figaro, the barber of the title, is aware of all the pieces that is happening on the town and is prepared to assist Almaviva and Rosina. Nonstop deceptions and plot twists ensue.

The metaphors didn’t cease with the setting. Figaro’s entrance aria, ‘Largo al factotum’, spiraled right into a full-on TV industrial, with six colourful barber chairs and rainbow-colored hair dryers, all framed with a window representing Figaro’s salon. Every aspect appeared simply as he sang about it.

Anachronisms abounded, together with a scrumptious second when Dr. Basilio demonstrated methods to begin a rumor whereas singing the aria ‘La calunnia è un venticello’. He opened his ‘Orange’ pc and, moments later, confirmed Dr. Bartolo on his iPhone how the phrase had unfold. In a refined gesture in a scene exterior the home, Figaro opened a discarded heart-shaped field of Lindor goodies, tasted one and forged a significant have a look at Almaviva as he realized that’s the place the alias got here from. When, to achieve entry to Rosina, Almaviva disguised himself as ‘Don Alonso’, the over-zealous, pious music instructor, he arrived in a white shirt and backpack wanting like an escapee from the musical The Ebook of Mormon, foisting his books on Dr. Bartolo as he sang ‘Tempo e gioia sia con voi’.

The creativity prolonged to housekeeper Berta’s aria, ‘Il vecchiotto cerca moglie’, as soon as routinely reduce as a result of it restated the already demonstrated vagaries of outdated males wanting younger ladies. For soprano Murrella Parton, a Santa Fe Opera apprentice this 12 months, the aria was staged as a type of ‘coming-out’ second, her uniform quick-changed right into a spangly robe, accompanied by backup dancers in high hats and tails. The track labored completely because it asks why an older girl shouldn’t have a go.

Pinpoint timing in each comedy and music made all this spin like a high, beginning with Mexican conductor Iván López-Reynoso. Making his United States debut, he received each second of the music bouncing alongside merrily, and that performed on the forged’s vocal strengths and the way in which they synchronized gestures, glances and physique actions to Rossini’s rating.

The Figaro ‘industrial’ in The Barber of Seville © Curtis Brown/Santa Fe Opera

All the forged sang properly, with accuracy and loads of vitality appropriate for this rating. If none registered as operatic stars, they formed their characters magnificently, each vocally and theatrically.

The comedian genius was bass-baritone Kevin Burdette as a loose-limbed, intentionally effeminate, endlessly reactive Dr. Bartolo. He made his physique curl, kick, hunch and seemingly dissolve off a chair, and managed to sing ‘La vendetta’ whereas spoofing yoga poses. Why? The lyrics are concerning the frustration brought on by the others’ trickery and methods to calm right down to actual revenge. Yoga was his approach. (One other anachronism that labored.)

Joshua Hopkins as Figaro swaggered, boasted and sang the music with a spread of colours in his sturdy bass-baritone. Jack Swanson’s Depend Almaviva wielded tenor fioritura with limitless vitality, and mezzo-soprano Emily Fons as Rosina made her Santa Fe debut succeed with faultless singing and a tall presence made much more imposing by a towering hairdo.

The lads’s refrain (that includes Santa Fe Opera apprentices) contributed mightily to the hilarity, whether or not clothed as mariachis, policemen or umbrella-wielding folks on the road (throughout the transient rainstorm in Act II). The opening scene, with the onstage band taking part in as Almaviva tried to woo Rosina, was full of priceless in-jokes for musicians. And, in one other unconventional second, the turntable began up throughout the Act I finale. With the primary characters lined up downstage, the policemen toppled over woozily as they sang about being pushed dizzy by the confusion.

No one does consternation like Rossini.

The on-point vitality so compelling in Barber was lacking in Carmen. On this manufacturing, Carmen isn’t any femme fatale however a hard-working cigarette woman in denims, a type of pullover high and a denim jacket. She remains to be a free spirit however, aside from Leonard’s pure magnificence, gone have been the sexual-innuendo physique language and steamy vocal timbres that would fairly appeal to the eye she will get from lustful troopers. She wanted to face out extra from the opposite ladies.

Amongst these troopers is the corporal who falls for her nearly on sight, Don José. Typically portrayed as one thing of a nebbish, right here he’s a traditional abuser, gruff one minute and whiny the subsequent. Fabiano wielded a ringing tenor that overpowered Leonard’s slimmer mezzo-soprano sound. He did handle to dial it again for some beautiful moments within the ‘Flower Track’.

Sylvia D’Eramo was making her mainstage debut in Santa Fe. She additionally invested the character’s music with extra muscle than we often hear, together with a last phrase in Act III that may come from the voice of Tosca or Aida.

The staging launched additional components, starting and ending in a dilapidated Fifties amusement park, framed with sections of roller-coaster observe. Through the prelude, a 10-year-old woman explores the set in a pink ballet outfit that alludes to flamenco. She seems to be across the carnival, cringes on the Toreador march and makes some awkward flamenco strikes to the music. Performed by Isla Burdette, the daughter of Kevin Burdette (Dr. Bartolo in Barber), this determine might be Carmen’s Roma soul or, maybe, a illustration of destiny. She reappears in each scene, typically as an observer or an indicator of what’s to occur subsequent. At one level, in one of many opera’s extra touching improvements, Carmen comforts her because the smugglers sleep in Act III.

Speaking about her new manufacturing, Clément stated in 2021 that Carmen is ‘really a really darkish and gloomy piece’, and the amusement park ‘is sort of a psychological panorama for Carmen’. The little woman ‘would simply seem like a younger Carmen or a bit of woman from the neighborhood of vacationers . . . like one thing blurred and dreamlike coming into focus’.

If these glosses have been meant to signify what’s going on in Carmen’s thoughts, it’s a crowded place. Lillas Pastia’s tavern in Act II is shrunk to the scale of a cabaret, so small {that a} dancer needed to crouch to get previous the curtain. Within the last scene, often represented as the outside of a bullring, gaudy kiosks almost stumble upon one another as they roll into place within the carnival. Included is the ticket sales space the place José would shortly stab Carmen to dying.

Slightly than amp up the electrical energy, this had the other impact, tamping down the eagerness that retains audiences in a grip. Even the music reached solely a restricted wattage, as Bicket common the orchestra’s impressively exact taking part in to match the director’s tone.

As is common for Santa Fe, the supporting forged dispatched their moments within the highlight with skilled acuity. The smugglers’ quintet in Act II skipped alongside brightly, and the fortune-telling card scene in Act III drew particularly good singing and performing from sopranos Magdalena Kuźma and Kathleen Felty. Michael Sumuel’s softy framed bass-baritone sounded high-quality however missed the swagger in Escamillo’s toreador music.

The general impact was subdued, and that’s not an adjective that ought to apply to Carmen.

Harvey Steiman



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