First in-person full opera performances in NYC since the pandemic took place at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park! For two evenings opera company Teatro Nuovo presented Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.
This new American opera company specializes in Italian opera of the “Bel Canto” period and they indeed delivered for New Yorkers who surely missed attending this type of events.
Artistic Director Will Crutchfield said that the production of The Barber was chosen because “it is the longest-lasting and most beloved opera in the whole repertory of Bel Canto.” Verdi called it “the most beautiful comic opera in existence.” Audiences had confirmed that judgment by the time Verdi made it. Eighty-two years after the opera was written, and have kept on confirming it up to the present day, 123 years after Verdi said it.
“This is a moment for both continuity and novelty,” he added, “so instead of our usual rarities, we decided to return with an opera known and loved by all, but to do it in our radical new way. Teatro Nuovo is about empowering the individual singers and players who create the core experience of opera. As we return after the longest interruption in the history of the artform, our most important job is to make sure we know what that core experience is, and how to bring it forth.” – Will Crutchfield
For The Barber Teatro Nuovo used an orchestra of 35 players “exactly the number employed at its 1816 premiere in Rome,” observed TN Associate Artistic Director Jakob Lehmann, who lead the band as primo violino e capo d’orchestra.
The opera was played in Teatro Nuovo’s now-traditional semi-staged style. Fully enacted, but without stage director, again in conformity with the practice of Rossini’s day.
The Barber of Seville story at a glance:
Rosina, an aristocratic orphan, is the legal ward of her tutor, Dr. Bartolo, who intends to marry her. He is both genuinely infatuated with the girl and eager to get his hands on her inherited wealth. But she has caught the eye of the Count Almaviva, who serenades her under the guise of a penniless student “Lindoro.” After one such serenade the Count runs into Figaro, a barber and jack-of-all-trades who had worked for him previously. He was then enlisted to help get him into contact with the over-protected Rosina.
Bartolo has his own wily helper, Don Basilio, who alerts him to the Count’s interest, and the rest of the story is a race between their efforts to get the marriage contract finalized. The main incidents are the Count’s two disguises: first as a soldier supposedly quartered on Bartolo’s residence, second as a substitute music teacher.
During the first episode Rosina confirms her interest. During the second, the clever barber gets hold of a key to the balcony, and an escape is planned. Bartolo thinks the intruder is an agent of the Count and not the Count himself. He persuades Rosina that her lover is a mere procurer intending to hand her over to his rich employer. All is resolved when “Lindoro” and the Count are revealed as one.