Opera Theatre Restyles 'Barber' for the Fun of It

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

If you consider opera a sacrosanct form and a composer's performance wishes inviolable, then the Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia's version of Rossini's "Barber of Seville" is emphatically not for you. It is only for people who think opera should be fun.

This is a 45-minute, one-act version of Rossini's masterpiece, adapted by Lyric Opera of Chicago and sung in English. It is Rossini as situation comedy -- which, come to think of it, is not a bad approach.

Certainly Sunday's audience at Arlington's Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre appreciated it. Half the attendees were younger than 10, there was a smattering of teenagers and most of the over-70 set brought grandchildren. It was that kind of inclusive performance.

Artistic Director John Edward Niles conducted a six-piece ensemble (piano, strings and oboe) and a cast of four. Daniel Collins was a bright and bouncy Figaro, delivering such silly lines as "my prodigious brain explodes upon the spot" with aplomb. Yvette Smith was a strong-voiced and strong-willed Rosina. Michael Nansel made a wonderfully curmudgeonly Dr. Bartolo, and he took his pratfalls with ease. Only Aurelio Dominguez as Count Almaviva had a little trouble with the format and was off-pitch at the beginning, though he soon improved.

The six child supernumeraries -- area residents Bouji Galea, Isabel George, Addie and Paul Murphy, Michael Pisigan and Marisa Wright -- were wonderful movers of the action and the scenery. It all added up to the least pretentious opera you'll ever see. And you can still see it: It will be repeated Saturday afternoon.

-- Mark J. Estren

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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