I escaped into high jinks comedy and heard vocal splendor when I attended an engaging Sunday matinee performance of “Barber of Seville,” presented by Indianapolis Opera at the Tarkington Theater on the campus of the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.
“The Barber of Seville” by Gioachino Rossini with an Italin libretto by Cesare Sterbini, has remained a popular work since its premier in Rome in 1816 and is regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy within music. The two act opera recounts the story of Bartolo, who wants to marry his niece Rosina, an heiress, who he practically imprisons in his home. Count Almaviva who falls in love with Rosina serenades her but isn’t able to actually meet her so he asks an enterprising barber named Figaro, to help him connect with her. What follows is a series of madcap situations that include a false identity, a music class, and a bribe.
The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, led by conductor Matthew Kramer excelled in its performance of Rossini’s bright and breezy score, setting the tone for what was to come with it’s jaunty rendition of the opera’s highly recognizable overture.
Under the effective stage direction of John Truitt, the performers made the most of the the libretto wacky comic content, resulting in broad, physical comedy that bordered on slapstick, which the singers executed with superb timing. Tenor Ben Robison who sang the role of the love struck Count Almaviva, bass Tony Dillon as the grumpy Dr. Bartolo, Michael Kelly as clever Firgaro, mezzo-soprano Deborah Domanski as the determined Rosina, and Raphael Porto as the hypocritical Basilio, all gave high caliber vocal performances and each demonstrated strong comic acting abilities as well. Showing finesse in minor roles were Jacob Pence as Fiorello/Officer, and Megan Moore as Berta. Tyler Ostrander, in a non-singing role, also deserves mention for his hilarious turn as Bartolo’s drowsey servant, Ambrogio.
Choral master John Schmid deserves praise as well for his usual expert job of overseeing the IO chorus. Though some of the singers were a bit stiff on the acting side, the chorus more than made up for it with their fine harmony, blend and vocals that were solid.
As far as the sets and costumes—they reflected much more modest production values, probably due to a leaner budget, than those employed when the organization presented at Clowes Hall. Coupled with Betsy Cooprider-Bernstein’s lighting design, the total effect was one that came off as cartoonish. Still, the production’s disappointing technical elements did not detract from the absolute enjoyment I derived from the singer’s ebullient performances.
For tickets and information regarding “The Jewel Box, ” Indianapolis Opera’s next production to be held March 24, 25 & 26 at the Schrott Center for the Arts at Butler University, call (317) 317-283-3531 or visit www.indyopera.org.