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Opera Review

“Barber” second cast largely rises to the Rossini challenge

Wed Nov 18, 2015 at 12:03 am

By Lawrence Budmen

Javier Abreu and foofah in the Sunday matinee performance of FGO's "Barber of Seville." Photo: Brittany Mazzurco Muscato.

Brian James Myer and Hilary Ginther in the Sunday matinee performance of FGO’s “Barber of Seville.” Photo: Brittany Mazzurco Muscato.

At the Arsht Center on Sunday afternoon the audience awarded the second cast of Florida Grand Opera’s production of The Barber of Seville a prolonged ovation. And for good reason.

With one crucial exception, these young singers brought tremendous verve to Rossini’s comic masterpiece. They also made a better case for Dennis Garnhum’s updated staging (from the Vancouver Opera). The sight gags had a greater sense of spontaneity and fun and, with slightly faster tempos from Ramon Tebar in the pit, the whole show was snappier than on opening night.

Two of the cast members proved nothing short of heroic. With Andrew Owens, who was to sing Count Almaviva in all performances, announced as indisposed, Miami-based tenor Javier Abreu was called in on a few days notice and, with just one rehearsal, gave a captivating portrayal of the aristocrat. Abreu’s compact voice was clear and easily filled the house. His ease in coloratura was evident immediately in “Ecco ridente” and his pianissimos in the serenade to Rosina were meltingly beautiful. His characterization was consistently funny as he took full advantage of his disguises as a drunken soldier and stammering music teacher.

Veteran basso-buffo Kevin Glavin broke his ankle during rehearsals, but that did not stop him from playing Dr. Bartolo. Hobbling around the stage with a cane, and wheeling around in a chair, Glavin added his own highjinks, and made the most of his scenes with Hilary Ginther, the afternoon’s Rosina. His seasoned voice was in booming form and his comic timing down to an art.

Ginther, a promising member of the opera’s young artist program, displayed a heavier mezzo voice than Megan Marino in the first cast. But her sumptuous timbre was matched by agility and great comic skills. Ginther’s rapport with Abreu was delightful to watch and her music lesson scene was a riot.

The weak link was the Figaro of Brian James Myer, also an FGO young artist. Sounding more bass-baritone than baritone, Myer’s low register was solid but high notes were hit or miss. Despite his youthful energy, his Figaro was less a factotum than an interloper. Still, despite at times resorting to stock gestures. Myers’ scenes with Ginther and Abreu were great fun, the “Zitti, zitti” trio a highlight of the afternoon.

Florida Grand Opera repeats The Barber of Seville with the second cast 8 p.m. Friday at the Arsht Center in Miami and December 3 and 5 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. Megan Marino, Andrew Owens, David Pershall and Kevin Short are featured 8 p.m. Saturday at the Arsht Center. 800-741-1010

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