Nothing much has changed in Seville since its famous Barber last visited the Los Angeles Opera six years ago; nothing much needs to. Now, as then, German director Michael Hampe offers proof that classic operatic comedy works best when left alone.

Nothing much has changed in Seville since its famous Barber last visited the Los Angeles Opera six years ago; nothing much needs to. Now, as then, German director Michael Hampe offers proof that classic operatic comedy works best when left alone.

First developed by him during his tenure at the Cologne Opera (but with Mauro Pagano’s plain, serviceable sets actually created at Tokyo’s Kunitachi College of Music), the production remains wildly comic without once transcending the limits of the opera’s wise words and insidiously seductive music. Those who would transfer Mozart’s operatic action to the far side of the moon, or Wagner’s “Ring” to the Texas prairie, are urged to observe Hampe’s demonstration of the superior strength in dramatic truth-telling. Much of this strength stems from the simple, imaginative stage blocking. You get the feeling that real people, confronted with situations similar to Rossini’s antics, might just cross the stage in that same way.

Aside from Vladimir Chernov’s dashing, insinuating Figaro, the cast principals were new to the company: light-voiced tenor John Osborn as the amorous Almaviva, bass-baritone Bruno Pola as a Bartolo fatuous but somehow also dignified, basso Simone Alberghini somewhat underpowered as the conniving Basilio. The new Rosina, Romanian mezzo-soprano Carmen Oprisanu, was the evening’s find: a honey-voiced singer with splendid command of vocal acrobatics, graceful to watch, unerring in her comic sense and, again, never departing from the role’s innate dignity.

The opera was presented more-or-less complete, lacking only Almaviva’s big closing aria, which is cut more often than not. (It does delay the final curtain with not quite first-rate music.) Smaller roles were nicely dispatched, best of all by Suzanna Guzman as the put-upon slave Berta and by Dietmar Koenig, who embellished the mute role of the servant Ambrogio with a repertory of show-stopping grunts – again, well within the great comic spirit of the original work.

Gabriele Ferro’s conducting was convincingly paced, but a few instances where orchestra won out over singers will probably be corrected in future performances.

The Barber of Seville

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, L.A. Music Center; 3098 seats; $170 top

Production

Los Angeles Opera presents Gioachino Rossini's two-act opera; libretto by Cesare Sterbini drawn from the play by Caron de Beaumarchais. Conductor, Gabriele Ferro, with the L.A. Opera Orchestra and Chorus; director, Michael Hampe.

Creative

Production from the Cologne Opera; sets from Kunitachi College of Music, Tokyo. Designer, Mauro Pagano; lighting designer, Alan Burrett. Opened and reviewed, Feb. 7, 2003; runs through Feb. 23. Running time: 2 HOURS, 50 MIN.

Cast

Figaro - Vladimir Chernov Rosina - Carmen Oprisanu Almaviva - John Osborn Bartolo - Bruno Pola Basilio - Simone Alberghini
With: Suzanna Guzman, David Babinet, Dietmar Koenig, Gregorio Gonzalez.
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