A bubble-gum sweet Barber in VancouverReview
Vancouver Opera’s second offering this season is a colourful re-imagining of The Barber of Seville. Resplendent in an artistic, Art Nouveau-meets-anime set, with pops of colour throughout, the set and production design is fun and light, and this is reflected throughout the entire show.
Starting with the men’s chorus, hired by Almaviva to serenade Rosina under her window, they staged a mock orchestra, full of great moments of physical comedy and mayhem. Isaiah Bell as Count Almaviva was brilliant, vocally inventive with incredible coloratura that was crisp and precise, and great comedic moments in his various disguises that were silly, fun, or ridiculous in equal measure.
Edward Nelson as the eponymous Barber was absolutely phenomenal. Commanding the stage from the moment he arrived, his rendition of “Largo al factotum” couldn’t have been better. Working the stage and the audience, he was absolutely charming, and even took the final verse at breakneck speed, all without missing a single note. His Figaro was sassy and confident, and he brought great swagger to the role, and his comedic timing was excellent throughout.
Mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne as Rosina brought vivacity and spunk to the character. With a beautiful low range, and incredible precision, her “Una voce poco fa” was stellar; fast, precise and agile, she made the difficult aria sound easy with her consummate technical skill. Her duet with Nelson was equally impressive, both having coloratura with metronomic precision.
As the foil Dr. Bartolo, Thomas Goerz was a bumbling fool that played perfectly off the clever heroes. Goerz’s patter was incredibly fast and precise, though occasionally difficult to hear, and his “fake” singing as a demonstration to Rosina was hilarious throughout.
Gena van Oosten as the long-suffering maid Berta was lovely, and her aria on the mysteries of love was a great scene - full of men vying for her affections and falling over themselves to get close to her, she obliviously laments the fact that she’ll likely be alone forever. It was a charming touch, and performed beautifully by van Oosten who packs a big voice in a small, feisty package.
Throughout the show, the ensembles were incredibly funny, well-timed, perfectly balanced, and inventive. The choruses were tight and precise, and the choreography of all the ensembles made them all as much a pleasure to watch as to listen to.
The Vancouver Opera Orchestra, under the baton of Nathan Brock was excellent; sensitive and precise, and brought a fresh take to the score and highlighted the action on stage.
Director Ashlie Corcoran breathed new life into this old classic, from the clever staging of the chorus numbers, to the seamless set changes, everything was punchy, funny, and perfectly timed. My favourite moment was Rosina sitting in bed eating ice cream from the container while lamenting the loss of her love. Funny, and overly relatable content!