UTAH OPERA, THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, Capitol Theatre, May 11; through May 19, tickets at 801-355-2787, 888-451-2787 or www.utahopera.org
The Utah Opera’s new Barber of Seville is a delight. World-class singing combines with witty staging, lavish sets, and hilarious acting for a performance that kept the audience charmed and riveted.
From the chorus to the leads, the cast was largely magnificent. Figaro, the eponymous barber, was sung expertly by Will Liverman in his Utah Opera debut. Liverman is a rich and resonant baritone, and at the very beginning of the iconic “Largo al factotum,” it was clear he would knock this one out of the proverbial park.
Robert McPherson’s Count Almaviva was an excellent complement to Liverman’s Figaro. While Liverman sang with a warm lyricism (at sometimes breakneck speed), McPherson delivered his extravagant coloratura passages with an impassioned exuberance.
The pairing of these two voices brought out a subtle difference in their characters’ personalities and motives, which Rossini deftly worked into the score. But it was their compelling performance that drove those nuances home.
Celena Shafer infused an almost athletic vigor into her singing of Rosina. The varied palette she brought to all the twists, turns, trills and tremolos in her arias was astonishing. In sum, her singing was a brilliant synthesis of virtuosity, spectacle and comedic genius.
Happily, the opera was as well directed as it was sung. The staging was creative and clever, and my amazement at the musical quality of the performance was interrupted only by my joining in the roaring laughter of the audience.
Obviously, there’s a lot of comedy inherent in the text itself. Just reading the libretto would be funny enough. But stage director Tara Faircloth introduced some brilliant blocking to the brawl scene in Act I and peppered the rest of the show with unexpected gags and laughs.
There was very little to complain about in the production. The chorus sounded fantastic, the supporting cast was as impressive as the leads, and the period costumes and sets were many and lavish.
Because this was such a fine performance, I hesitate to be overly critical. But. The overture felt rushed and a little scattered. In particular, the famous trills and melodies in the violins sounded muddied.
But this is a minor grievance, and missing this wonderful production would be a much greater tragedy than a few out-of-sync violins.