Vocalist - Soprano
Acclaim
Vocal pyrotechnics enhance Opera Birmingham's hilarious Barber
5 stars out of 5

Whether it's your first, or hundredth, time to see "The Barber of Seville," Opera Birmingham's production can't help but keep you in stitches.

While Rossini's time-honored operatic romp has sure-fire hit written all over it, the cast assembled by General Director John Jones is as consistently first-rate as you'll find at companies many times larger.

Stage director Bill Gustafson rarely departed from all the expected ingredients, except to add a myriad of subtle touches designed to produce giddy smiles and hearty laughs at nearly every turn.

Soprano Heather Buck's portrayal of Rosina was sheer delight, shifting alluringly and seemlessly from the self-proclaimed sweet girl ("Io sono docile") to the self-absorbed conniver. Capped by coloratura pyrotechnics in the aria, "Una voce, poco fa," she consistently sang with radiance and fullness, easily filling, but not overpowering, the Alabama Theatre acoustics.

Equally ego-driven was the barber, Figaro, in this characterization by baritone Corey McKern. The Pelham native has all the goods to rise to star stature -- timing, stamina, vocal heft and an easy-going stage presence -- especially telling in Figaro's signature aria, "Largo al factotum della citta." Tenor Aaron Pegram sang with brightness and strength while working through Count Almaviva's hilarious disguises.

As Doctor Bartolo, baritone Steven Condy was perfectly cast, endowing his boorish character with extra doses of gruffness. Jason Hardy's hearty bass boomed threateningly as Rosina's music teacher, Basilio. Even the relatively minor roles of Fiorello (Daniel Seigel) and Berta (Chandra Egger) were sung with confidence and conviction.

As a unit, the cast swooned under the influence of Bartolo's medicine cabinet in a side-splitting scene to close Act 2 ("Ma signor"), momentarily forgetting their troubles and rivalries while spitting out Italian patter under kaleidoscopic lighting.

Keeping it all together was conductor Joseph Mechavich, who had the Alabama Symphony in fine form. Elden Little provided the silver lining with his adroit harpsichord playing and comedic touches. Flutist Lisa Wienhold provided a nice diversion in a duet with Buck in variations on "Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman."
Michael Huebner, Birmingham News
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