Rossini’s new age ‘Barber’ unknotts hairy story and braided classic love


By Phyllis
Michigan Opera Theater opened its 42nd season with a restyling of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” Oct. 13.

The barber trimmed about 100 years off the top, as the story line moved from 1816 to 1920. In short, the updated barber and the town of Seville got a makeover for this classic.

The style of the classic opera nicked into the 1920s, with the help of Suzanne Hanna. For 25 years, Hanna has been involved with the making of costumes that fit. She has worked on several productions of “The Barber,” so it did not take her long to find the colors, fabrics and styles to make this production roar

Regardless of the well-hemmed flapper attire, Rossini’s classic score and love theme remained true.

The light-hearted story follows Count Almaviva (American tenor Rene Barbera) as he attempts to win the hand of the lovely young Rosina (American soprano Elizabeth DeShong). All this of course accomplished with the help of Figaro, the barber of Seville. Figaro (Russian-born baritone Rodion Progossov) helped unknot the twisted hairy tail and in the end, braided classic love.

Progossov was a timeless delight. Bold and boyish, Progossov delivered an unyielding heartfelt performance. His mischievous smiles and powerful vocals gave rise to the hair on the back of the neck.

Mark Twain once said, “Love is the irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.” This was, of course, the Count’s dilemma. In that, the Count tried to win the heart of Rosina as a common person. The Count wanted Rosina to love him for himself not his title.

The barber projected an understated humility by virtue of masterful and sweet vocals. Progossov was tender as well as deliberate and strong from start to finish.

Together, with the barber and Count fought for the heart of his Rosina, and both Progossov and Barbera were brilliant in the attempt.

To be sure, even in 1816, love was never just that simple or easy. The impeccable Rosina, ward of Dr. Bartolo (American bass-baritone Thomas Hammons), had to sing her way to love and freedom. In that attempt, Deshong was glorious. She was elegant and regal while deflecting the love interest of old Dr. Batolo, and pursing young love.

A loser for Rosina’s love, Dr. Bartolo, Hammons’ performance won plenty of hearts. He was flawless.

Wardrobe and some theatrics withstanding, the classic scores were time-honored, well executed, and harmonious.

The classic runs through Sunday which features a 2:30 p.m. performance. Tickets range from $25 to $125, and may be purchased on line at www.MichiganOpera.org, by calling 313-237-SING or in person at the Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway, Detroit. Tickets also may be purchased at Ticketmaster.com, at any Ticketmaster outlets or by calling 800-745-3000.

A free and informative opera talk begins one hour prior to each performance. Go to www.MichiganOpera.org/Access for more information.

The next production in the MOT’s fall season features the New York City Ballet MOVES Oct. 27 and 28. Tickets range from $35 to $80, and may be purchased on line at www.MichiganOpera.org, by calling 313-237-SING or in person at the Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway, Detroit. Tickets also may be purchased at Ticketmaster.com, at any Ticketmaster outlets or by calling 800-745-3000.

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