Catalan collective Els Comediants’ production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is back at the COC in a revival of the 2015 production. Five years ago I described it as a “glorious romp” and, based on yesterday’s performance, I see non need to amend that judgement. It may be even better this time. It still has Joan Guillén’s wonderfully colourful and silly costumes and sets and it still has Joan Font’s inspired directing; perhaps even crisper this time. Once again it has a wonderful cast of international and Canadian singers including a reprise of Bartolo by the admirable Renato Girolami.
So what’s new and different? Probably the biggest thing is the conducting of Speranza Scappucci. She’s not at all shy about taking things at pace. The overture set the tone and the various convoluted quick fire ensembles were taken dangerously fast. Fortunately she had an ensemble cast that was well up to the task and, it’s an odd thing I suppose, the faster those numbers are the funnier they seem. The overall result was very exciting.
It was also a bit of “a star is born” moment, at least for those of us who have watched Emily D’Angelo grow from a precociously talented undergraduate (she was still an undergrad when this production was last seen in Toronto!) to a young woman who can totally command the stage of a major opera house. She was just excellent. Vocally secure in the big arias and the ensembles, she also commanded the eye with just about every gesture and movement.
There are no weak links in this cast. Vito Priante gives us a Figaro who is appropriately athletic both vocally and physically. Santiago Ballerini is perhaps not quite as flamboyant as a young Juan Diego Flores but he sings well with clean high notes and his comic acting is pretty decent. Brandon Cedel’s booming Basilio is the genuine article and, of course there is Renato Girolami showing how Italian buffa roles should be played. The minor roles were taken by Ensemble Studio members. Joel Allison, as Fiorello, didn’t sound at all out of place in this company and nor did Simone Genga as Berta; completely solid in her aria. Vartan Gabrielian didn’t have a lot of singing to do as the Officer but he certainly looked impressive. The gentlemen of the COC Chorus were as reliable as ever.
If you didn’t see this production in 2015 go this time and take a few friends or a few kids new to opera. It’s perfect for them. If you saw it last time go for Scappucci’s inspired conducting and so that twenty years from now you can say “I saw Emily D’Angelo back when…”
The Barber of Seville continues at the Four Seasons Centre until February 7th.
Photo credits: Michael Cooper