Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

Love affair
Teatro Lirico d’Europa’s sparkling Rossini and dim Puccini

It’s official. Boston really loves Teatro Lirico d’Europa, the Bulgarian touring opera company that has been turning up here for the past five years. The Cutler Majestic was at near capacity for the single performance of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, which is based on the Beaumarchais comedy about how Figaro, a barber (among other things) in Seville, arranges the marriage of Count Almaviva to the lovely and Rosina, the spirited ward of the aging Dr. Bartolo, who has wanted her for himself. Six years before Rossini was born, Mozart composed an opera based on another Beaumarchais play with some of the same characters, Le nozze di Figaro, whose events — the circumstances surrounding Figaro’s own wedding — actually follow those events in the Rossini.

Rossini’s delightful comedy, one of the most popular in the repertoire, seldom comes off well. More often than not, the music loses its fizz, and the farcical contrivances (see-through disguises, drunken soldiers) seem labored rather than stylish. Good singers aren’t often expert comedians; comedians who are good singers are even rarer. Rossini demands phenomenal vocal and verbal dexterity from the entire ensemble — and great comic timing. Those were exactly what Teatro Lirico brought. It may have been the best production of this familiar opera I’ve ever seen.

This was very much a cast-centered enterprise. Artistic director Giorgio Lalov is a conventional, ungimmicky director — there’s not much new in his staging. But there was always a point. The supertitles were projected with a dim bulb that made the translations virtually unreadable; yet the audience was laughing at all the jokes, because the action was always clear and followable, even without any knowledge of Italian. And here was a perfect example of cast members used to working together. Each character related to each of the others. Everyone knew and felt comfortable with everyone else, even when they were trying to deceive one another.

And they were all good! Figaro was the engaging young Russian baritone Vladimir Samsonov, who has sung with the Bolshoi Opera and the Mariinsky Theatre. He was truly the center of this production, commanding the stage with his wit and his charm. His Italian diction was first-rate in the rapid patter numbers, and he has a refined and ringing tone — burnished copper. This was not a Figaro who barked the famous "Largo al factotum" ("Figaro! Figaro!"), but he used his voice to bravura effect. He had an embarrassing "wardrobe malfunction" — a breach right down the middle of his breeches, so his white briefs were showing through the split in the maroon satin. When he returned after intermission, his yellow side sash was suddenly front and center. I guess there was no seamstress backstage. In any event, none of this seemed to faze him in the least.

Rosina was Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Viara Zhelezova, who has been singing with Teatro Lirico since 1992. If you were to picture a Bulgarian diva as a kind of wrestling champion with a buzz-saw voice (like one of those amazing Bulgarian folksingers popular a decade ago), you’d be wrong. Zhelezova, with her long dark hair and sly smile, is more like a Bulgarian Julia Louis-Dreyfus, with equally impeccable comic timing, who has the luminous voice and dazzling coloratura of Cecilia Bartoli. I don’t know why she’s not a major star.

Almaviva was American tenor Don Bernardini. He took a bit of time to warm up, but soon his strong, focused tone became an impressive instrument, and he too, disguised as a drunken soldier or a prissy music teacher, used his voice and body to comic effect without losing his aristocratic bearing. Senior Bulgarian baritone Hristo Sarafov must have played the frustrated Dr. Bartolo his entire professional life, yet there was nothing mechanical about his performance (except when Figaro turns him into a mechanical doll, with some startlingly suggestive reflexes). He also maintained his aristocratic deportment, and though his voice is more dry than plush, he was a model of good technique and appropriate buffo style.

In the role of the slander-mongering Don Basilio, Rosina’s real music teacher, sonorous Russian bass Viacheslov Pochapsky, Teatro Lirico’s profoundly moving Boris Godunov two years ago, was hilarious — a gawky Ichabod Crane, on the take and always ready for a little malice. (His great Russian ancestor, Feodor Chaliapin, also excelled in both these roles.) Even mezzo Rumiana Petrova, in the small part of the housekeeper, Berta, played with flair and sang richly.

Conductor Hristo Ignatov followed rather than led the singers — or didn’t follow them. And the small orchestra wasn’t particularly smooth. But the singers maintained a lively pace, and there wasn’t a dull moment. The sets, a Seville street scene and the interior of Bartolo’s house, were attractively cartoonish, though the set changes necessitated an intermission at the wrong place. Not a major problem when the most important things were so good.

page 1  page 2 

Issue Date: January 28 - February 3, 2005
Back to the Music table of contents

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group