This weekend, the Wichita Grand Opera closed the indoor portion of its season with three performances of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” in three separate locations: the Stiefel Theatre in Salina on Friday, the Orpheum Theatre in Wichita on Saturday and the McPherson Opera House on Sunday. That’s a lot to ask of an opera cast (and orchestra and stage crew) in one weekend. Nonetheless, that’s a great way to expand the WGO’s outreach and audience.
While the Saturday night performance at the Orpheum (which, by the way, is a lovely venue for an intimate comic opera like the “Barber”) was shortened, it was nicely streamlined and not so diminished as to make it dissatisfying. Overall, the performance was delightful and a big success, thanks to a great cast and a sprightly orchestra that kept the pace moving.
In the title role, baritone Michael Nansel proved to be a marvelous Figaro, with a robust voice and a great sense of comedy. As the two young lovers Rosina and Count Almaviva, Sharin Apostolou and tenor Brenton Ryan made a believable pair, with the good looks and beautiful voices needed to pull off those characters.
Apostolou not only made a gorgeous Rosina, but her sparkling coloratura and her slightly devilish humor made her a very appealing leading lady. One of the highlights of the evening was her dazzling version of “Una Voce Poco Fa,” perhaps the best-known aria from the opera.
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Ryan displayed a bright and excitingly rich voice with great high notes and showed his ability to portray a charming and witty aristocrat.
As the bumbling and angry Dr. Bartolo, Charles Turley had a satisfyingly full tone and just enough pomposity to make Rosina’s guardian likably funny. William Powers, as the oily music master Don Basilio, sang his aria “La Calunnia (The Slander)” with the power, the warmth of tone and the slippery deceit needed for such a piteously amusing “villain.” Kaitlyn Costello (last year’s marvelous Cherubino in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”) returned to the WGO as Bartolo’s servant Berta, and she proved herself capable not only of singing the role with a beautiful and flexible voice but also of portraying her comic character with the balletic physical ability necessary to end her aria by dropping down into a full split.
The chorus performed well, especially in the storm scene; however, the staging in the first scene during Almaviva’s aria (“Ecco Tidente”) seemed haphazard and unfocused. The orchestra was generally well-led by conductor Ken Hakoda, music director of the Salina Symphony, although occasionally a tempo would begin to race and then soon settle back into a more cohesive pace. The orchestra included an electric piano, which sounded real enough but, undoubtedly due to the size limitations of the orchestra pit, had to be placed outside the pit, where its stand light glared into the audience and provided some distraction.
All in all, the WGO’s “Barber of Seville” made for a delightful evening, and it should be congratulated for another very successful production.