Bartlett Sher's production returns with three of the original cast members. When this production opened, it provided a refreshing look at the Barber and also gave it a faster pace. The set is made of doors, orange trees, stairwells and most important of all, a minimal set. The backdrop changes with lighting effects. Sher makes sure that what is on the stage is used and he leaves nothing that will distract the audience from the singers or the action of the show. Catherine Zuber's costumes are all period but are colorful and very detailed. Sadly these are the most original she made for the Met as she ended up copying these wonderful costumes for Le Comte Ory and Romeo et Juliette. The most innovative part of the production is the walkway that goes around the orchestra pit. However while innovative it muffled the singers' voices. The Met is made in a way where the best acoustics are on the actual stage. Taking the singers out of the stage only helped muffle their sound. However even though this is a shortcoming, the production is sexy, fast and best of all comic.
This year Diana Damrau headlines the cast and while Isabel Leonard sings the majority of the performances, Damrau's interpretation is unmissable.
Diana Damrau returns to the role of Rosina. Today she is one of the most dazzling and glamorous stars around. When Bartlet Sher’s production opened in 2006, Diana Damrau was a no name singer. However, when she sang this production she was hailed for her vocal fireworks and her acting. She was fierce, flirtatious and most of all lovable. She quickly became a household name at the Metropolitan Opera and EMI Classics immediately signed a record contract with her. She returned a few years later to the role of Rosina and results were as good as the first time. A year later she returned to the Met in the role of Marie in La Fille du Regmient and once again was hailed for her comic timing. Last year she sang another Rossini role Le Comtesse in Le Comte Ory, her first appearance since pregnancy. Her voice has become even bigger, more focused and her high notes even sturdier. Her acting was thrilling and exciting. Without a doubt Diana Damrau will once again prove why she is one of today’s greatest sopranos. She will dazzle and when all is said and done she will most likely steal the show as well.
A recent winner of the Beverly Sills Award, Isabel Leonard makes her role debut as Rosina. Hailed for her Mozart repertoire, Isabel Leonard has yet to be heard in a Bel-Canto role at the Met, so this should be a treat. The first time I heard her was in Romeo et Juliette in the role of the Page. Her aria was beautifully sung with clean high notes and runs. In addition she convinced with her acting. It’s hard to predict how well she will do with the role as it is new to her repertoire. However with a beautiful, agile and clean voice like hers makes things look promising.
When Peter Mattei sang the Barber Figaro in 2006 he brought sexy back to the role with his charisma and vocal brilliance. Instead of coming on stage alone to sing the famous Largo al Factotum, he comes with a wagon pulled by a mule with women around. Like the New York times stated it gives the character of Figaro a "Don Giovanni feel." Peter Mattei's voice is robust and agile. While he is not perfect at top of his voice and can be a bit coarse, his presence and his acting help reduce these vocal problems. As an actor Mattei is agile, athletic and flirtatious. It also helps that he has good stage presence. While the Met has yet to headline the baritone, Mattei will definitely make another star turn in this role.
Rodion Pogossov returns to the role he debuted in at the Met in 2002. While I have yet to see him on stage, the New York Times hailed him for his comedic instincts and his swagger. In addition he was hailed for his robust voice and his shiny and bright high G's and A's. Apparently his stage presence is also a amazing. I suspect he will be as good if not better with the experience in this role.
Javier Camarena and Colin Lee sing the Count. Both have beautiful lyric voices. However with two great Rossini tenors like Lawrence Brownlee and the great Juan Diego Florez having owned this role at the Met, it is going to be an uphill challenge for both. Comparisons to the other two are likely. Colin Lee made his debut in the role of Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor and his voice's breath control and phrasing were questionablein my opinion. Javier Camarena has sung the role to great acclaim but from what I have heard he lacks the perfection and flexibility in the coloratura and cleanliness in the high notes. However, I don't want to take their credit away because they may surprise as many artists have done in the past.
John Del Carlo returns to the role of Bartolo after a star turn in the title role of Don Pasquale. Del Carlo may not have the most beautiful voice but he is agile and flexible and has unmatchable diction. He may have breath control problems at times but this mostly due to his acting. His voice is huge and this most likely due to the fact that he sung Wotan at the beginning of his career. When he created the role in Sher's production he was comic and unforgettable. After Don Pasquale, I gained even more respect and admiration for him as a singer and I have no doubt that he will recreate his great interpretation of Bartolo this year.
A trio of all-star veterans sing the role of Basilio. Samuel Ramey returns to the role he created in this production. After a career of great triumphs and being a Rossini specialist, today Ramey’s voice is wobbly and unstable. It still maintains its huge sound but it no longer has a natural ring. However Basilio has no legato lines and instead is filled with staccato runs and fast music. Ramey still has great breath control and therefore he’ll be able to pull it off excellently. In addition his comic timing is some of the best. He’ll most likely be as good as when the production opened. Ferruccio Furlanetto sings Basilio after twenty years. Furlanetto is renowned for his Verdi and Mozart portrayals in particular King Phillip in Don Carlo and Leoporello in Don Giovanni. But it is the dramatic Verdi roles that he has sung most recently and which have made his name. However when Furlanetto sang the role in '84, a role which was recorded and currently on DVD on Deustche Grammophon, he was hilarious and he sang all the vocal runs to perfection. It’s been nearly twenty years and his voice is no longer as fresh. It will be difficult to sing this role the same way again, but Furlanetto always knows how to give the music energy and surprise the audience. The last of the Basilio’s is Paata Burchuladze, a renowned bass who has sang many Verdi roles to acclaim and whose vocal range is exceptional. This year he also returns to Basilio, a role created back in the 90s. While I have never heard him in the bel-canto repertoire, his previous legacy leave me no doubt that he will succeed.
A great cast and great production will make this is one of the unmissable operas of this year.