Sunday, June 04, 2006

Kudos to Val!

While I'm pilgrimaging, my sister Val is keeping the family name in the media. Here's a review she sent me that just came out for an opera she is in in Florida...

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Great cast makes this 'Barber' fun
By By JOHN FLEMING
Published June 4, 2006

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ST. PETERSBURG - What a character Figaro is. Barber, wigmaker, surgeon, all- around operator - you name it, Figaro does the job. From the Beaumarchais plays to the Mozart and Rossini operas, he was the great man of the people in revolutionary 18th century Europe.

The Figaro of Rossini's Barber of Seville commands the stage in the performance by Jon Truitt in a superb production at the Palladium Theater. Truitt, who also directed, seems born to play the swaggering role and sing Figaro's famous "Largo al factotum,'' which brought down the house Friday night. The baritone's hammy good nature, rough-and-ready timbre and rapid-fire pacing had an uncanny natural quality.

And right up there with him is a matchless Rosina, sung by mezzo-soprano Valerie Nicolosi, who has the agile technique to go from charming shtick to heart-stopping aria at the drop of a trill. She hit a perfect high note in Rosina's introductory aria about how she is obedient and sweet but can turn into a viper if crossed.

The singing and acting by Truitt and Nicolosi and the rest of the cast are so engaging that everything just feels right in this treatment of Rossini's comic masterpiece. The performance, which takes place on a minimalist set by Megan Byrne, strikes a deft balance between a fully staged opera and a concert version.

Mark Sforzini conducts the Florimezzo Orchestra at the rear of the stage behind a scrim. The singers occupy the front of the stage, with no apparent difficulty following the conductor's tempos. Amy Cianci's costumes, especially Rosina's elegant gowns, and lighting by Byrne add visual flair.

Tenor Bryce Westervelt, the Count Almaviva who dons various disguises in pursuit of Rosina, was properly ardent once he recovered from a wobble or two in his opening serenade. Russell Franks' Bartolo, the coquette's other suitor, was dashing in the patter songs and surprisingly touching in his Act III aria in the old style. Todd Donovan brought resonant warmth to the music teacher Basilio. Liana Valente was hilarious in Berta's exasperated aria to marriage.

The cast takes obvious pleasure in the slapstick of Rossini's tongue-twisting ensemble numbers, such as the quintet "Buona sera'' when Figaro, Rosina, the count and Bartolo give Basilio the bum's rush offstage.