Hamilton has been fortunate to be the home of, and recipient of, the musical largesse of an artistic virtuoso. Boris brought us his eponymous classical music festival; Boris brought the National Academy Orchestra here, making Hamilton the Mecca for young graduates. Last evening, Boris brought back opera to Hamilton, after a two year hiatus. Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia performed at Mohawk’s McIntyre was a brilliantly creative take on this opera comique.
Re-set a century later than the original and utilizing minimal properties; it was the familiar music and clever libretto of Sterbini that was the focus. The performers not only contributed their superb voices but interpolated thespian skills worthy of dramatic theatre. Innovative contrivances such as overtly setting out the props during the overture, and having Figaro begin his introductory ‘largo al factotum’ from the rear of the audience and prancing down the aisle added an immediate comedic aspect to the evening. The aria, performed by Christopher Dunham as the barber, morphs into an almost Gilbert/Sullivan tongue twister and Dunham slurred nary a syllable. If this were Rome instead of Hamilton, insistent cries of ‘Bis’ would have been shouted out.
In the quadruple role of Almaviva aka Lindoro; soldier; & priest; David Menzies’ tenor had a definite sweetness that made his character interpretations endearing. Such a role portrayal makes audiences crave for him to win his Rosina (yes, we DO know how it ends). Traditionally, the baritone is the goat, or the heavy and in Barbiere it is young lady’s guardian- Dr. Bartolo who also happens to have a yen for her. Jeremy Ludwig exhibits frustration and obstacles from all sides yet he manages to make his character somewhat sympathetic. At curtain, the audience began rising as he took his bow.
With the exception of Figaro, the pivotal character has to be the winsome Rosina and contralto Charlotte Burrage handled the role with aplomb. Her voice & diction are superb and she has the thespian timing of every successful ‘standup’. Her Act I aria about self-determination and fortitude is as liberating as Traviata’s Violetta, but without the amorality. Burrage’s singing style seemingly effortless yet forceful enough to hold her own in powerhouse duets. The septet that closed Act I was a study in perfect harmony & synchronization. Challenging, considering that the conductor was behind the singers with only a 1st row flat screen directing.
The support cast contribution was notable for its universal commitment. Even the so-called ‘walk-on’ roles reflected a sense of obligation. Bartolo’s handyman – Ambrogio is played by a scene-stealing Tamas Sandor while Hélène Brunet epitomizes every disgruntled maid who hates her boss. The terpsichorean duet was a pure giggle.
Between ‘grand’ and ‘concert’ opera, one might call this middle ground – perhaps Opera lite, but this inaugural effort by Brott Opera and program director Taras Kulish was certainly well-executed and definitely entertaining, even for the aficionado class. We fortuitously could witness it through the eyes of our guests Kyle & Lauren who were viewing the genre for the first time. Their, and our, overall opinion…Figaro says it best with his closing of the ‘largo’ . “Bravo, Bravissimo!”
BTW Always thought that the quote about ‘An offer they can’t refuse’ came from Coppola’s “Godfather”; turns out it was Barbiere’s Don Basilio’!