Opera Review: THE BARBER OF SEVILLE (Pacific Opera Project at The Ford)

Post image for Opera Review: THE BARBER OF SEVILLE (Pacific Opera Project at The Ford)

by Lawrence Lucero on August 31, 2023

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles


Last Friday, a beautiful night at The Ford amphitheater in the Cahuenga pass, Pacific Opera Project presented a one-night-only performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. As with earlier productions, POP has given The Barber of Seville a decidedly local vibe, relocating the opera’s setting from 17th-century Spain to 1980s glam Hollywood. Pop culture references abound in the supertitle “translations” as well as in the slide show that plays during the overture. Inventive director Josh Shaw created the film-like opening credits, production specific lingo, and TMZ-like paparazzi celebrity pics. They were hilariously entertaining as well as brilliantly functional at masking the scene changes.

Rosina (Meagan Martin) is a pop star just out of rehab and being prepped for her comeback. The humorously quirky cultural transpositions include turning Dr. Bartolo (E. Scott Levin) into Rosina’s screwy pervy manager, giving Figaro (Johnathan McCullough) a West Hollywood stylist persona and making music teacher Don Basilio (Andrew Potter) into a Steven Tyler-esque rock star.

The Ford’s natural rock and greenery was awash in purple with the orchestra — nimbly conducted by Kyle Naig — on the upper right raised level just far back enough to be seen beyond one of the two proscenium fortress-like towers which were used for projecting supertitles of the Italian libretto as well as images evoking the Hollywood theme.  

After a beautifully executed overture, Fiorello (the very warm-voiced lyric baritone Jared Jones) enters with the chorus, instructing them to do the biddings of Hollywood heartthrob Count Almaviva to assist his courting Rosina, the object of his affection. After some silly comedic staging reminiscent of the seven dwarves, the light and unforced tenor Sergio González as The Count serenades Rosina with “Ecco ridente la cielo.”

Entering next through the raked audience we meet Figaro. McCullough’s rich-voiced baritone in “Largo al factotum” demonstrated charm, charisma, and an ability to transcend the singing, handling the comedy with convincing acting. The Count hires Figaro to help him into the house of Dr Bartolo to see Rosina. Figaro looks forward to the money Almaviva will give him. When we meet Rosina again in her hot pink workout suit with matching white headphones and shoes, her clothing matches the furniture (costumes by Salette Corpuz). While the darkness of her vocal texture is more suited to Carmen, Martin sings “Una voce poco fa” well and handles the music adeptly. Figaro arrives to speak with Rosina but is interrupted by Don Basilio and Dr. Bartolo. Entering in full rock and roll regalia a la Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Mr. Potter offers fine, deep and chocolatey tones in Basilio’s “La calunnia” about the power of rumors to damage a person’s character. Potter was right on! I only wish he had been afforded the benefit of a real electric guitar chord at the climax of the aria. THAT would have really sent it over the top!

Next, we hear “Dunque io son” in which Figaro obtains a love note from Rosina to the fictitious Lindoro (really the Count) whom she believes to be a poor student. Their duet was terrific, especially Martin who sang her vocal runs with an effortless beauty. And in a champagne-pink sequined minidress no less. Dr. Bartolo enters and confronts Rosina singing about the missing paper she used to write the love note and questioning her loyalty to him. As Bartolo, Levin’s overwrought antics and desperate dramatics resulted in fair singing — yet even though his comic chops were lacking, the audience loved him. The Count enters disguised as a soldier. After a heated exchange with Bartolo, he reveals himself to Rosina as Lindoro, her serenading student. Bartolo and the Count argue again escalating to a loud scuffle attracting the attention of Figaro and Basilio and a Police Sergeant (solidly sung by baritone Byron Mayes) with his fumbling Gilbert & Sullivan-esque police troop.

POP’s production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville delivers the quality, comedy, approachability and affordability that audiences have come to expect from LA’s most exciting opera company. While artistic director Josh Shaw might go a little over the top on occasion, at least in terms of comic good taste and Times Square traffic staging, his creative vision never ceases to amaze.

photos by Matthew Ian Welch

The Barber of Seville
The Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd Eplayed Aug 25th, 2023
for more info, visit POP

Leave a Comment