Our story begins with the dashing young Count Almaviva, serenading beneath the window of the lovely Rosina. Trouble is, she’s kept under lock-and-key by her curmudgeonly old guardian, Dr. Bartolo. Tough luck for the Count! But just then, the town barber – a wise-guy named Figaro – arrives on the scene, and offers to help Almaviva. He figures that the Count should …
Director Joan Font has clearly set out to milk Cesare Sterbini’s libretto for laughs at every turn. And designer Joan Guillén was on the same page, providing the giant pink piano that dominates the stage and other assorted absurdities, such as Dr. Bartolo’s green hair. As well, in the performance I saw – on Tuesday night (Apr. 21) at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre – the cast was united in its quest for farce and folly, working together like cogs in a bizarrely intricate Rube Goldberg machine.
At the centre of it all was baritone Joshua Hopkins, as Figaro. He inhabited his role thoroughly, filling it to the brim with a spontaneous sense of movement and timing. Moreover, his voice was solid, yet light enough for the bel canto ornaments he tossed off so well.
As his partner in crime, Almavia, Alek Shrader was a sweetly lyrical, if sometimes a tad fragile, tenor. He convincingly swaggered around the stage like a rich playboy – and his imitation of a cloyingly pious priest was worth the price of admission.
Mezzo Serena Malfi’s brought many strengths to the role of Rosina. Dramatically, she was a force to reckoned with. Vocally, her delivery was clear, bright and supple – yet at the same time there was an intense, strident quality to her tone that could sound harsh.
If there was a prize for most versatile voice of the evening, it would go to baritone Renato Girolami. As Dr. Bartolo, he sang, shouted, barked and shrieked his way through the opera, taking vocal silliness to new heights.
Bass Robert Gleadow, as Don Basilio, was gruff and stentorian. And soprano Aviva Fortunata, as the maid Berta, was an impressive Act II revelation. She’s currently in the COC Ensemble – and I hope to hear more from her in the future.
Conductor Rory MacDonald kept things moving at a brisk – and sometimes breakneck – pace. Yet both the cast and the COC Orchestra matched his every demand, and no necks were broken.
© Colin Eatock 2015