Posted by: operatheaterink | December 2, 2010

Seattle Opera’s ‘Barber of Seville’: A Sneak Preview, Dec. 2, 2010

Speight Jenkins Has Taste; Peter Kazaras Is a Singer’s Director.

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

I thought that my readers would be interested in seeing the lovely preview video of Seattle Opera’s upcoming “Barber of Seville.” Throughout the years, General Director Speight Jenkins has led Seattle Opera with impeccable taste regarding everything from production choices to marketing and casting. Set to retire in a couple of years, Jenkins’ love of Wagner has made Seattle Opera the Bayreuth on the Pacific, yet unlike Los Angeles Opera’s recent “Ring” festival fiasco, Seattle Opera’s productions have always been tasteful and respectful so that the focus is on the composer’s music and intent. The audience has not felt intimidated. Likewise, although marketing has been focused, it has not been offensively turned into a citywide religious experience and has not offended any particular population.

Peter Kazaras, the director of this current “Barber,” does not have a bloated ego like so many of our contemporary directors do, such as Achim Freyer who felt the need to upstage the singers and even the orchestra in Los Angeles Opera’s “Ring” production. Kazaras, who has sung professionally in some of the world’s greatest opera houses, understands that opera is about voice. Some of our most noteworthy classical music critics have even forgotten that dimension when they focus mainly on the productions and orchestrations. Although significant, what differentiates opera from other classical music genres is the voice. Has the composer been successful in writing for the voice?

It is also important to be respectful of the singers, to elevate them so that they are the focus of every opera. Kazaras is a masterful director because he enables non-noteworthy actors to become noteworthy singers who can suddenly act. How does he do it? By giving them stage business which enables them to become the characters they portray. This stage business and blocking, especially in the operatic comedies he directs, is usually unique, clever and enjoyed by the people in the audience.

I have watched Kazaras in action at UCLA where he has directed many audience-friendly productions on a shoestring budget, including Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro,” Verdi’s “Falstaff,” and even Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel.”

He has carried through with his singular talent at Seattle Opera in both mainstage productions and for the company’s young artist program.

With Jenkins and Kazaras onboard — two pros who understand their craft — Seattle Opera’s “Barber” will no doubt match the tastefulness of the following video. Who can resist the antics of Dr. Bartolo singing “A un dottor della mia sorte” or Don Basilio hamming it up in “La calunnia”? Figaro’s “Largo al factotum” is a crowd-pleaser. And Rosina’s “Una voce poco fa” never fails to charm whether the Rosina is a soprano or mezzo. Plus Lawrence Brownlee is the added attraction who gets the girl.

Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” is being staged by Seattle Opera to ring in the New Year from Jan. 15 to Jan. 29, 2011. For more information, go to http://www.seattleopera.org.


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