"[Barber]" is a good opera for a company like this. It does have a plot, but its real interest lies in a series of showoff numbers: a tenor serenade, a fast patter song for Figaro, Rosina's "Una voce poco fa," Basilio's "La calunnia" and Bartolo's "A un dottor," for openers. They follow one another at a frantic pace; there are also the ensembles, the tenor's two comic disguises, the invasion of a platoon of soldiers and the little showpiece "Il vecchiotto," given to the otherwise undistinguished role of the housekeeper Berta and sung impressively by Margaret Jane Wray.
His comic flair (and that of tenor Stanford Olsen, who sang Almaviva) was greatly enhanced by Andrew Foldi's stage direction. In the aria in which Figaro outlines his plan for the Count to sneak into Bartolo's house in the guise of a drunken soldier, for example, a coat rack with military jackets, wigs, belts, etc., is brought on stage, and the Count is transformed (complete with a slightly crooked mustache) before the audience's eyes. Olsen does not seem to be a naturally talented actor (few tenors are), but in this well-directed production his comic acting is as impressive as his singing of the serenade. He is less convincing when he simply portrays a smitten lover, but one can expect only so much.
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