On Stage: The Rabbit … er … Barber of Seville

So, I’m sitting on the couch watching “The Nightly Show” (which I watch during the day) and The Wife comes to me and she says,

“Guess where we’re going tonight”

“Uh, let me think…it’s late May…it’s Friday…oh no, it’s Opera Season!”

“That’s right!”

“But you said we didn’t have to go to the opera anymore. You said two years of opera was all the culture I would ever need.”

“I never said any such thing. I would never say any such thing and you know it. Besides, you’ll enjoy tonight’s performance. It’s Rossini’s classic ‘The Barber of Seville.'”

“The Rabbit of Seville? With Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd? Awesome! And it’s only eight minutes long! Best. Opera. Ever.”

“Uh. Yeah. Just get dressed.”

And so it was that we made our way back to the Loretto-Hilton Center for our first outing in the 2015 season of Opera Theatre Saint Louis. We had the same seats as last year, which is good, because I had an aisle seat, which is important, because the Loretto-Hilton Center did not take into account people over six feet tall when they put in the seating.

The music begins. Ah, I remember it well.

Welcome to my shop — Let me cut your mop — Let me shave your crop —

daintily—

daintily—

HEY YOU!!!

Where’s Bugs? Why is no one singing on stage? Why am I singing alone? Why is everyone looking at me? OW!! A jab in the ribs from The Wife tells me that I should be quiet.

Clearly I have been misled. There will be no Bugs and Elmer cavorting across the stage tonight. The music’s still good. I let the cartoon play out in my head until the overture ends.

barber-main-image-325pxSo it turns out that Rossini’s version of the story is a romantic comedy. Count Almaviva (Christopher Tiesi), who sometimes disguises himself as a poor student, or a drunken soldier, or a hippy musician in order to hide his wealth, has set his sights on the lovely Rosina (Emily Fons). They’ve never met but they’re madly in love with each other because, you know, opera.

Rosina lives with her guardian, Doctor Bartolo (Dale Travis), who keeps her locked up in his house and plans to marry her himself. (We didn’t arrive in time for me to read the synopsis before the show, so I thought that Rosina was the doctor’s daughter for the first half of the show — which made their relationship seem more creepy than it really was. It’s still pretty creepy. Could you really keep a woman locked up in your house forever, even in 1816? I guess times have changed.)

Enter the fun-loving, free-spirited Barber of Seville, aka Figaro (Jonathan Beyer). Figaro comes out singing his signature tune, which was also used to good effect in the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Long Haired Hare.” So now I’ve got Giovanni Jones going through my head. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Figaro agrees to help the count work out a scheme, or rather schemes, to help him win the hand of Rosina. Wacky hijinks follow.

OK, so, “The Barber of Seville” is an entertaining show. My wife was giddy before the show started and she continued to be that way when it was over, so there’s your perspective from the opera lover’s point of view.

The set design was clever, the costumes were sharp (although the barber’s eyeball coat was a little freaky), the music was lovely. There are certain absurd and wacky elements to the production — like the butler who shuffles around like Tim Conway in a “Carol Burnett Show” sketch.

The actors were all very good but Beyer was the standout as Figaro. His smile and cheery disposition were contagious. I also thought Travis had some impressive pipes.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to dig out my Looney Tunes dvds.

“The Barber of Seville” plays June 4, 6, 10, 14, 17 and 27 at Opera Theatre Saint Louis. http://www.opera-stl.org/

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