The Opera Company of Middlebury chose for its sixth production Rossini's perennial favorite, The Barber of Seville. Accustomed as I am to the ingenious staging by Douglas Anderson, artistic director of the company, I always look forward to the production.
This time was no exception, even if it wasn't as seamless as, say, A Little Night Music. When it worked, however, at the performance on Friday night, June 5, it was delightful to be seen and the stage business enhanced the performance in general.
The fact that Anderson works with young singers may be part of the success of the vigor of past productions. It certainly was a general attribute shared by the singers in this production. By choosing young singers, however, the chance for jitters and their impact on the singing increases. Of the three acts, the third showed the greatest comedic comprehension on the part of the singers, as well as showing the singers'voices off to their best advantage.
Insofar as the casting was concerned, the baritone and the basses in the cast displayed the most evidence of good solid technique paired with a willingness to take dramatic risks. Nathan Wentworth was a dive-into-the-wool Figaro, allowing himself to ad lib. several bits of stage business during the crescendo finale of the second act. He seemed very comfortable, although I'm sure he's more comfortable in Mozart's setting of the second Beaumarchais play in his Figaro trilogy. Stephanos Tsirakoglou did very well indeed with the role of Dr. Bartolo, and he gave some dignity and humanity to his characterization. Peter Campbell sang Basilio in a very dark bass voice, and he handled the comedy routine with aplomb. Stephen Lavonier made a distinctly positive impression as Fiorello.
Jonathan Blalock was the Count Almaviva, and he handled the greatly demanding part with a mixture of finesse -- most of act three -- and inexperience. His handling of fioriture left a great deal to be desired, and yet he brought some stagecraft with him also. Giliana Austin was Berta, and she handled herself well.