Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) opens at the Israeli Opera on Friday, March 12. The best comedians and comedies tease the audience with a virtuoso performance that works within a particular role, story or genre while at the same time revealing its ridiculous aspects, as if to say: I can do all that – but I choose not to. Il barbiere di Siviglia takes a beautiful heroine, her controlling guardian and her ardent lover and turns the familiar story into a seriously funny performance. Midnight East was fortunate enough to attend the general rehearsal for this production directed by Mariame Clément, with Niv Hoffman as revival director, and conducted by George Pehlivanian, with David Sebba conducting March 25 – 27.
From the moment Figaro (Olivier Grand, alternating with Borja Quiza) steps out in his black jogging suit, singing at a breakneck pace while leaning casually against the wall, lighting a cigarette and engaging in other endearing male behaviors relating to walls, it is clear that this opera will be a very different kind of experience. Set in and around a dentist’s office, the production takes many liberties – and gets away with them all, thanks to an amazing ensemble of talents. The comic effect is enhanced by the dissonance between the beauty and quality of the music and a parade of characters with the looks and mannerisms of televised soap operas rather than the opera stage. It sounds crazy – but it works.
One of the funniest scenes takes place when Rosina sings to her lover Lindoro (who is really the Count Almaviva disguised as Lindoro disguised as a music teacher in sleazy 80s disco garb) and her guardian Dr. Bartolo. Soprano Chen Reiss (who alternates with Hila Baggio) adopted the artificial mannerisms of the would-be amateur singer and scheming coquettish Rosina, while at the same time conveying a sincere girlish awkwardness and perhaps even a degree of innocence as her love for the lounge lizard really made her hit those high notes. Bartolo meanwhile squirmed with pleasure, thinking that she was singing to him. Reiss’ exquisite voice renders the scene even more hilarious – as a ‘real’ singer disguised as an amateur singer, winning the hearts of her audience onstage and off.
It is a production that assumes a knowing, sophisticated audience, and plays on that knowledge. Yet even for the neophyte , it makes a delightful introduction.
Il barbiere di Siviglia
Israeli Opera, 19 Shaul Hamelech Blvd, Tel Aviv
Performances: March 12 – 27
Duration: approximately two hours and fifty minutes
All performances are preceded by a one-hour introductory talk that takes place in the concert hall. The opera is sung in Italian with English surtitles.
Backstage tours before the show: 16.3, 20.3, 23.3, 24.3
Opera talkback: 13.3, 18.3, 23.3, 24.3
Tickets: (175 – 428 NIS) 03-692-7777