Friday, 12 May 2017 11:09

Review: Opera Grand Rapids’ ‘Barber of Seville’ features go-big-or-go-home voices, personalities

Written by  Samara Napolitan
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Review: Opera Grand Rapids’ ‘Barber of Seville’ features go-big-or-go-home voices, personalities Photo by Eric Bouwens

“Largo al factotum” is perhaps one of the most recognizable arias in opera. The boastful tongue twister (try saying “-issimo” ten times fast) is the quintessential display of operatic bravura as Figaro explains why he’s the most popular guy in Seville.

The Opera Grand Rapids presentation of “The Barber of Seville” unearths the other bold personalities in Giachino Rossini’s evergreen comedy. From the sassy Rosina to the unctuous Don Basilio, the May 12 and 13 production serves as a delightful example of what happens when egos unite onstage.

In her first Grand Rapids appearance since starring in title role of “Carmen” in 2014, Italian-American Ginger Costa-Jackson is unmistakably the tour de force of the production. Her inspired portrayal of Rosina captures multiple dimensions of the beautiful-yet-conniving ward of the lecherous Dr. Bartolo.

When Costa-Jackson sings in her native tongue that her character is demure and sweet until someone stands in her way, it is 100-percent believable. The opera is worth attending simply to witness the Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano’s stunning coloratura, captivating acting and skillful comic timing.

Following an early morning scene on the streets of Seville, the story picks up within the Bartolo residence. Bartolo has designs to marry Rosina, but Lindoro (the amorous Count Almaviva in disguise) has captured Rosina’s heart. Peter Strummer as Bartolo embraced the comedic opportunities of his role, and had the Thursday night dress rehearsal audience in stitches with a well-placed Fruit of the Loom reference.

Kevin Langan in the role of Don Basilio, Rosina’s vile music teacher, gave a comical performance of the well-known “Calumny” aria, complete with a Disney-villain cackle. The fun amplified when David Margulis as the Count and Corey McKern as Figaro join the mix, with the Count’s hilarious disguises being a particular highlight.

Director Bernard Uzan brings a traditional setting of the opera tinged with absurdity. A bullet-time fight scene at the end of Act One was an imaginative way to culminate the building pandemonium.

Under the baton of Maestro Leonardo Vordoni, the orchestra sounded shy of its usual standard as it struggled to synchronize with the vocal patter. It was also clear that many of the performers were preserving their voices for the full performance. However, the dress rehearsal offered a hint of the vocal acrobatics and zany orchestration expected to fill the house this weekend.

Opera Grand Rapids
Betty Van Andel Opera Center
1320 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids
May 12-13
operagr.org

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