OPERA NEWS - Il Barbiere di Siviglia
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Il Barbiere di Siviglia

New Jersey State Opera

New Jersey State Opera, forty-eight years old, has left Newark (its long-time home) to seek to reconnect with its initial core audience among Italian–Americans. Traditional Italian works will take the foreground; for the moment, productions will be reduced in scale. The Aprea Theater in Clifton, a comfortable 500-seat house in a former YMHA, served as a transitional venue for a very enjoyable performance of Il Barbiere di Siviglia on June 3, the second of four traversals. Chief honors go to artistic director Jason C. Tramm, who had assembled a fine group of players (twenty-seven strong) and led a well coordinated, fresh-sounding reading of the score — or most of it. Almaviva's final aria understandably went missing, but so did stretches of recit and the Duke and Rosina's perorations in the finale ultimo.

Jonathon Field's pastel designs (whimsically decorated flats, with a Goya print and some basic Spanish furnishings) proved highly serviceable, but his direction embraced too many Barbiere clichés (Almaviva throwing down audibly non-metallic coins, sneezing Berta, wildly gesticulating Basilio) and also cluttered the small playing area with much pointless, distracting mugging by the mute servant Ambrogio and a prancing Notary. Both finales flailed. Less would have accomplished more. "L'Inutil Precauzione" went unmentioned in Roberto Stivanello's lesson scene surtitles, spoiling Figaro's final joke.

The Stivanello costumes looked like, well, colorful stock Stivanello costumes. Figaro's overpowering wig was not a great advertisement for his wares. Baritone Ross Benoliel doesn't "own" the entrance "Largo," but he sang well and engagingly thereafter, though he was obliged to fake the high notes in the "Ah! qual colpo" trio. Luigi Boccia, an Italian–American tenor still at AVA, is a name to watch: he has vocal star quality to burn and a winning, goofy presence. Very occasional flat entries aside, he's clearly bound for a fine career — probably in Donizetti and light Verdi roles rather than Rossini, as it's not a sixteenth-note kind of technique, though he coped very well (if without trills). He took some recit lines up an octave for show. 

Still in her twenties, Stephanie Lauricella showed a lovely well-knit mezzo ideal for Rosina, with admirable agility, good line and a wide range; a very accomplished performer, she looked most attractive, like a taller Roberta Peters. She should beware of smiling too much to charm the audience; again, less accomplishes more. Similarly, Jeremy Galyon sang Basilio more than acceptably but was "acting funny" rather than creating a character from words and music. By contrast, Stefano de Peppo's Bartolo — expertly declaimed and vocalized in an admirably solid bass with much play of color and dynamics — proved genuinely funny because he remained so serious and real, almost never indicating "This is amusing" to the crowd. Charles Schneider's Fiorello showed uncommon vocal cultivation. spacer


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