Placido Domingo and the LA Opera have given us a real treat this holiday season. First, a magnificently sung and seldom seen Handel’s Tamarlano, followed by a rollicking version of that bel canto favorite, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.
New to Los Angeles, the production comes from Spain’s Teatro Real and is directed by Emilio Sagi. One of the nice advantages of receiving a guest production is that the audience gets exposed to some of the world's lesser-known opera companies.
We can see and hear La Scala and the Met live at the movies now, but getting a wonderful production like this Barber of Seville would not be possible without Domingo’s international fame and reach. As delightful as this production is, the real benefit is that, as with Tamarlano, Domingo has enlisted a star-studded cast to bring this comic opera to life.
The cast includes a Los Angeles opera favorite, the handsome “barihunk” Nathan Gunn as Figaro. He cuts a dashing figure but delivers his Figaro with great humor and athletic agility. Then of course there is his full-bodied singing, which showed me a new side to this talented actor/singer, whom I had seen in The Magic Flute in a very different role.
LA finally got to see the Peruvian sensation and new “king of the high c’s”, Juan Diego Florez. Though small in stature and vocal power, he displayed a thrilling ability to sing the bel canto style and showed a comic ability as well. Joyce DiDonato was a revelation as Rosina and displayed a highly accomplished soprano.
Bruno Meachem stole the show as Doctor Bartolo. He virtually owns this role now and plays it fully, with great ease and comic sense. He was very funny. Andrea Silvestrelli proved a stolid Don Basilio with a huge voice and stature. Kerri Marching did a wonderful turn as the bedraggled maid Berta.
The Barber of Seville was conducted with verve and pacing by the young conductor Michele Mariotti, who more than held his own with this stellar cast. It will play at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion through Dec 19 with an alternate cast performing on Dec. 5th.