Wolf Trap Opera presented a rollicking rendition of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” at Filene Center Friday night with a well-cast production that played up the score’s intrinsic musical comedy, but took the onstage high jinks a few steps too far.
Director Joan Font’s vision for this production of the 1816 opera paid homage to Greek tragedy and children’s puppet theater in the form of austere, sparse sets coupled with brilliant costumes, larger-than-life props and exaggerated movements. Those elements created a dichotomy that relied upon the cast to function as the glue. Many times it worked, thanks to their singing and acting talents. But sometimes it flopped, creating unnecessary visual distractions ranging from a servant entangled in the chandelier, hanging in the air for a dozen minutes, to supernumeraries pantomiming atop the grand piano set.
In the titular role of Figaro, Johnathan McCullough commanded the stage like a matador, wielding his rich baritone with ease as he plotted the way for Count Almaviva to free Rosina from her unsuitable suitor Bartolo. Taylor Raven brought a depth of character to her portrayal of Rosina as an earnest, confident young woman not to be messed with. She effortlessly navigated all the frills with her clarion mezzo and paired well with Christopher Bozeka (Almaviva), who serenaded his object of desire with a longing tenor while standing on a giant guitar. Bozeka dialed up the humor when disguised as a drunken soldier and substitute music teacher foiling Calvin Griffin’s suspicious and bumbling Bartolo. As the conniving music master Basilio, Patrick Guetti projected his regal bass in an equally creepy and comedic manner.
Justin Burgess (Fiorello), Niru Liu (Berta) and Jeremy Harr (Officer) rounded out the cast.
Conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya kept the orchestra and cast moving at a good clip. In the arias, she gave each singer leeway to punctuate and exaggerate the phrases just so, enhancing Rossini’s score with a deft touch.