Saturday, March 24, 2007

Geoffrey Riggs: BARBIERE for our generation, 3/24/07

Once in a great while, an ensemble will appear that encapsulates the very best of its generation. And when the best of a generation seems equal to the best of preceding generations, magic happens. It happened this past Wednesday the 14th, when Liz and I saw the current cast of Rossini's BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA at the MET. This same cast is performing the opera over the air this afternoon at GMT 1730/EDT 1:30PM. TUNE IN!! We fervently hope that the entire cast will show up today feeling fine!

Since Rossini originally entitled his timeless comedy CONTE ALMAVIVA/L'INUTIL PRECAUZIONE, we start with Juan Diego Florez's Count. There is an increasing tenderness to some of his singing today, especially in the rarely heard "Cessa di piu resistere", even though he's sung this difficult aria countless times before -- an artist capable of growth. Peter Mattei seems a veritable chameleon. After being one of those rare Don Giovannis who can easily fuse both suavity and menace, his Figaro is all sunniness and deft wit, fearlessly sung, with broad phrasing and adept agility throughout. John Del Carlo's deceptively conversational patter in Dottor Bartolo's music shows extraordinary facility too, and his funniest moments spring from a profoundly musical sense controlling a fine instrument. He is the truest successor today to Fernando Corena. Finally, the new addition to the cast, mezzo Joyce Di Donato, had herself a triumph. Hers is the most mischievous and ardent Rosina of today -- and she has a splendid technique and a lovely and wide-ranging voice. Many generations back, one fine Rosina of yesteryear once garnered a Shakespeare quote from an enthused critic: "[C]unning pattern of excelling nature". Well, that is Joyce Di Donato's Rosina.

Fortunately, Maurizio Benini's leadership at the podium shows far more sensitivity and a true sense of narrative theater in Rossini's score than we heard in an accomplished but not incandescent FAUST last week. Incandescent is exactly what Benini's Rossini is, and his contribution capped a BARBIERE on the 14th that was as close to perfect as we may ever hear.

Happy listening indeed!

Geoffrey Riggs

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