LA Opera Review: Rossini’s Barber of Seville
Gioachino Rossini’s world famous opera, “The Barber of Seville,” stars the barber (and town handyman) Figaro. This is an opera adaptation of the first part of the Figaro Trilogy written by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. It is an opera buffa (comic opera) about Figaro helping an incredibly wealthy Count Almaviva marry the love of his life, Rosina.
The first act opens with Count Almaviva standing under Rosina’s balcony at the crack of dawn serenading her with a love song. Rosina hears Almaviva’s singing and decides that she wants to meet and possibly marry him. However, Rosina is under the constant control and surveillance of her legal guardian, Don Bartolo. This memorable bass character plans to marry Rosina to obtain her huge inheritance, despite the fact that Don Bartolo is easily Rosina’s grandfather’s age.
Fortunately for Almaviva, Figaro is the handyman at Rosina’s residence, so Almaviva pays Figaro handsomely with gold to have him orchestrate a plan to unite the love birds. Hilarity ensues in the form of Almaviva pretending to be a drunken soldier with a permit to stay at Rosina’s residence. (This, of course, would not happen in the United States thanks to the Third Amendment of the United States Constitution.) Throughout the three hour opera, Almaviva and Rosina pass notes behind Don Bartolo’s back like school children.
Eventually, the couple successfully signs a marriage contract complete with a notary to stamp the document. Despite the fact that so many things occur in this opera, the complete story takes place within 24 hours. The first act opens at the crack of dawn, and the second (and final act) closes right after midnight on the same day.
LA Opera is in the midst of an epic project called “Figaro Unbound,” which is an LA city-wide project that celebrates Beaumarchais and his world famous character, Figaro.  LA Opera’s production of Barber of Seville was nothing short of phenomenal. The large cast of ~40 vocalists and dancers, the highly versatile and extremely detailed stage sets and beautiful costumes, the amazing vocal talent of the cast, and the absolute perfection performed by the LA Opera Orchestra made the whole performance a feast for the ears AND the eyes.
There are so many things I’d love to talk about with regards to the performance, but I would like to concentrate on one particular aspect that I found most intriguing. For the beginning two-thirds of the opera, the set and the costumes were all simple shades of black, white, and gray. Initially, I didn’t think anything of it. However, in the penultimate scene where the marriage contract between Almaviva and Rosina was about to be signed, the stage was suddenly flooded with color. The formerly black and white sets, props, and costumes were all swiftly replaced by ones with bright colors like red, blue, and pink.
If you were starting to nod off into a nice nap, the sudden flood of colors definitely caught your attention and woke you up. This drastic color scheme change did a wonderful job of being a visual cue to the audience that the winds had changed. Now that Almaviva had successfully freed Rosina from the grasp of Don Bartolo and married her, the couple’s lives are full of happiness and bright colors. Bravi Tutti LA Opera!
Cover photo by: Andreas Nilsson under Creative Commons License.