TEL AVIV: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
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Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Israeli Opera

The Israeli Opera opened its festive thirtieth season with Il Barbiere di Siviglia (seen Nov. 24). By a rare coincidence the premiere nearly coincided with the HD transmission of the same opera from the Met at the Jerusalem Cinemateque. The Israeli Opera used the production of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, directed by Katharina Talbach and revived by Claudia Gotta. Talbach's stage directing follows the current trend of many German opera directors to impose their own interpretations on their productions, even when the composer provides ample evidence of his own conception. The director moved the scene from Siviglia to an unnamed Spanish coastal town, represented by a small boat in the foreground of the stage, and into the early twentieth century, represented by two antique cars which traversed the stage during the playing of the Sinfonia. They were followed by a big, two story high, mobile house which was parked in the center of the stage and later opened onto a small stage, on which the opera was acted in the manner of a Commedia dell'arte, although the actors frequently moved to the main stage. Rosina, meanwhile, was symbolically enclosed behind a virtual wall on the small stage. 

Many actors represented the town people who attended the "show within a show.” They sat on the two sides of the movable home, but frequently engaged in their own activities: a young woman took off her clothes and entered a bath; a man hung out laundry. This extra activity was redundant and distracting. At one point Rosina's laundry list was read in Hebrew, and later on some people appeared on the stage with politically oriented posters in Hebrew. This was utterly silly, but I managed to ignore all that most of the time and to focus on the main action, which was boisterous and well acted.

Happily, the cast was almost all excellent. Italian singer Annalisa Stroppa was a superb Rosina, full of energy and personal charm. Rather than a full mezzo soprano, she is a soprano with a rich and mellow low register and bright, full high notes. Mario Cassi, another young Italian, was a marvelous Figaro both as a baritone buffo and as a superb actor. Edgardo Rocha, the Almaviva, is a true tenor coloratura, with a warm, flexible high register. Rocha sang beautifully Barbiere’s final tenor aria, “Ah' il più lieto, più felice è il mio cor,” which is a tour de force too frequently cut from this opera — although it is always performed as the mezzo-soprano’s rondò finale of La Cenerentola. Stroppa, Cassi and Rocha made their debut with the Israeli Opera in this production and I hope to see them here again.

Vladimir Braun, the regular bass of the Israeli Opera, was as good as ever, his rich voice flourishing in his sixties. His “La Calunnia” was beautifully built to its shuttering crescendo. The only disappointment was Italian Omar Montanari as Doctor Bartolo. His voice lacked all properties required of basso buffo, and he rather sounded like a bland tenor.

The supporting cast was excellent too, especially young Israeli soprano Shiri Hershkovitz who made the most of Berta’s single aria. Conductor Omer M. Wellber made smooth shifts from conducting to playing the continuo on a fortepiano. He occasionally inserted some humanistic quotes from other operas which I did not find necessary. His conducting was accurate and very energetic, but the orchestra sounded too loud and lacked the refinements needed especially for Rossini's crescendos. spacer 


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