We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


The cast of Prelude to Performance's Barber of Seville (photo by Jen Joyce Davis)
The tears from the prior night's performance of La Traviata had barely dried when we submitted to gales of glee at Il Barbiere di Siviglia.  No comic shtick was too broad for the mostly young audience at the Kaye Playhouse of Hunter College where Prelude to Performance is concluding its tenth season.  Through this program, the much honored and beloved soprano Martina Arroyo has ushered countless young singers into satisfying careers.  Indeed, we just saw/heard one of the earliest graduates, tenor Michele Angelini, turn in a superb performance at Caramoor as Gennaro opposite Angela Meade as the eponymous Lucrezia Borgia in Donizetti's rarely performed masterpiece.

Il Barbiere opens with a tender serenade by Count Almaviva, "Ecco, ridente in cielo" accompanied by bibulous musicians he has hired, led by one Fiorello, charmingly portrayed and well sung by the excellent baritone Paull-Anthony Keightley.  The serenade was directed toward Rosina, the beautiful ward of one Dr. Bartolo who plans to marry her himself that very day.

Kirsten Scott, whom we have enjoyed in Mozart, Puccini and Offenbach, had a wonderful time as Rosina, fearlessly tackling Rossini's daunting coloratura in "Una voce poco fa".  She succeeded in winning over the audience; we all wanted her to outwit the controlling Dr. Bartolo, sung by the excellent bass Jacopo Buora who created a thoroughly unlikable character. His "A un dottor della mia sorte" was properly pompous.

Figaro is the mastermind who, for a large fee, helps the Count to get the girl.  Samuel Thompson had the voice and the personality to fill the stage and turned in a most winning performance.  His Act I duet with Rosina "Dunque io son" was one of many highlights of the evening.  Of course, his "Largo al factotum della citt√†" brought down the house.

As the Count, tenor Alasdair Kent seemed to be somewhat indisposed, cracking on some of the elaborate ornamentations.  In Act II, he sounded better and we were able to appreciate the lovely tone of which he is capable.

Jennifer Lazarz made a strong Berta and tickled us with her performance as the much put-upon housekeeper.  Paul Grosvenor as Don Basilio the music teacher was obliged to overcome a rather grotesque wig and makeup.  We always enjoy his aria "La calunnia √® un venticello" about rumors and slander, in which Rossini builds to a wonderful climax. 

We were thrilled by Maestro Willie Anthony Waters' conducting which had perfect impetus and a much better balance than was achieved the night before.

Charles Caine designed some wonderful period costumes and Joshua rose repurposed the set from La Traviata in a very creative manner.  Stage director Anthony Laciura leaned heavily on slapstick humor that may not be our cup of tea but seemed to please the audience.  We ourselves find sufficient humor in the ridiculous behavior of the characters, the preposterous situations and Rossini's frisky music.

Although there was only one native Italian speaker in the cast (Mr. Buora) we found the Italian diction completely comprehensible (coaching by Sergio Stefani) and Cori Ellison's titles right on the mark.

This weekend of opera has been like an oasis in the summer dessert.  Thanks Martina!

© meche kroop

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