Two superb singers lift MLO’s rough-edged “Barber”

By Lawrence Budmen

aa and yy in Miami Lyric Opera's production of Rossini's "The Barber of Seville."

Leyla Martinucci and Stefanos Koroneos in Miami Lyric Opera’s production of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.”

Technical and artistic gremlins plagued Miami Lyric Opera’s opening night performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville on Saturday night. Heavy-handed conducting, ragged and out of tune orchestral playing, an uneven cast (with one serious vocal deficit) and a partial power failure at the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay all conspired to rob Rossini’s opera buffa of comedic and musical pizzazz. That some of the cast managed to make a strong impression was a tribute to their  trouper ethos.

The production got off to a poor start with a performance of the overture that verged on the amateurish. The ensemble was frequently not together and wayward horn playing did not help matters. Throughout the evening, Beverly Coulter’s metronomic, sluggish conducting lacked Rossinian sparkle and verve.

Around ten minutes after the curtain rose, the lights went on in the house and the pit lights went out. After a six-minute delay, artistic director Raffaele Cardone came onstage to announce there was a lighting problem and that it would shortly be remedied. Almost immediately the orchestral lights came on and the performance resumed.

Luckily it was time for Nicola Ziccardi as Figaro to make his entrance as Figaro with “Largo al factotem.” The Italian baritone has a strong top range, flexibility in the rapid-fire patter and a natural gift for playing off his colleagues’ antics. A bald, virile barber and jack of all trades, he properly dominated the stage whenever he appeared.

As Rosina, Leyla Martinucci was even better. This Rosina was no shrinking violet but a Latin spitfire who could stand her own ground with the scheming Doctor Bartolo. She is an authentic Rossini mezzo with a warm and voluptuous timbre, coloratura agility to burn and firmness and solidity down to the lowest notes. Martinucci’s “Una voce poco fa” was a knockout rendition with dazzling ornamentation, the biggest show-stopper of the evening. 

She seemed to be having genuine fun with Ziccardi during the “Dunque io son” duet. (Her facial expressions alone lit up the stage.) Both artists displayed great comic timing and sang in full, voluminous tones. Martinucci has recently sung the title role of Carmen and, with her beguiling stage personality and vocal gifts, she should be terrific as Bizet’s gypsy. Perhaps in a future MLO presentation?

Stefanos Koroneos has sung at La Scala, the Rossini Festival in Pesaro and with the Berlin Philharmonic. Wearing a long grey wig and gold coat, he was a zany Bartolo who clowned it up at every opportunity. His well schooled buffo bass rang out with force and depth and he could spin Rossini’s ornaments at top speed.

If only the same could be said for Fabian Robles’ Count Almaviva. While the young tenor’s sound is attractive, his upper register is almost nonexistent and his scooping up to notes sounded downright ugly. “Ecco ridente” was a trial for both singer and listener and he was seriously mismatched with Ziccardi in “All’idea di quel metalo.” Robles managed to pull off the ornamented solo in the final ensemble with aplomb. (Credit to Coulter and Cardonne for including all three verses of the spirited finale rather than just one which has become common in recent productions.)

Mikhaul Smigelski was a woolly-voiced Don Basilio. Sounding somewhere between baritone and bass, he lacked the firm low notes for “La calunnia” and his portrayal of the erstwhile music teacher was stolid. As Berta, Megan Barrera was a scene stealer, her crotchety, sneezing persona consistently greeted by laughter. Barrera’s light soubrette voice was equally enchanting in her brief aria. Gabriel Menendez as Fiorello and Eric Dobkin as the Sergeant offered amusing cameos with fine baritonal voices to match.

While the staging could have benefited from more high jinks, this was one of Cardone’s better directional efforts. Characters were well defined and the story smoothly and coherently enacted. The ragtag military contingent was particularly delightful–right out of the Gilbert and Sullivan canon.  Sets from the Sormani-Stivanello company were eye-filling and Pamela De Vercelly’s multicolored array of costumes were appropriately bright hued. The storm scene was highly effective, in no small measure from Kristina Villaverde’s lighting.

Despite ponderous musical direction, there was much that was enjoyable in this MLO traversal of Rossini’s most famous opera. Hopefully the technical glitches will not recur at Sunday’s repeat performance.

Miami Lyric Opera repeats The Barber of Seville 4 p.m. Sunday at the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay.



Posted in Performances

One Response to “Two superb singers lift MLO’s rough-edged “Barber””

  1. Posted Aug 07, 2017 at 8:35 am by Amalio Carneiro

    Is it necessary to refer to the physical characteristics of a singer other than his voice quality, execution, charisma, but describing an opera singer as bald is inappropriate and unnecessary.

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Sun Aug 6, 2017
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