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Opera review: 'Barber of Seville' at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

December 6, 2009 |  5:15 pm

BOSt4046Los Angeles Opera populated Rossini’s lively “The Barber of Seville” with a whole new cast of singers Saturday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Individual and ensemble values proved high, though it took a while for the comic action to jell and the electricity to flow.

Making his company debut, Russian tenor Dmitry Korchak  took over the role of Count Almaviva from Juan Diego Flórez. Korchak had a larger voice than his predecessor and had no trouble filling the hall or getting overwhelmed in ensembles. His voice had heft and flexible steel, and it blossomed on top. But some of these qualities came at a cost.

The Russian lacked the Peruvian’s insouciant vocal ease, evenness and agility. At the end of a marathon role, in the count’s virtuoso aria, “Cessa di più resistere” (Cease to Resist), Korchak began to sound rough and effortful, though his wattage never diminished.

His acting was credible and engaging too, although it lacked Flórez’s boyish flair. One had to wonder how much rehearsal time and directorial attention he and the rest of the second cast -- which has two more Saturday performances left -- had gotten.

Soprano Sarah Coburn, who impressed as Asteria opposite Plácido Domingo last month in Handel’s “Tamerlano,” took over the role of Rosina. She sang the role with dark-toned caresses, lively wit and a jewel-like sparkle, especially in the lesson scene in Act II. If memory of the score holds true, she also interpolated some coloratura figures to an already complex role and added an occasional high note or two. Her acting was subtle and engaged.

Looking a bit like John Cleese, Lucas Meachem sang Figaro with commanding power and a sense of fun and exuberance. He may have overshot himself in his entrance aria, “Largo al factotum” (Room for the city’s factotum), because the voice suddenly dropped off midway. But otherwise, throughout, he made a vocally and dramatically dominant figure.

Lacking the short, roly-poly physique of Bruno Praticò, his predecessor in the role, Philip Cokorinos made Doctor Bartolo an uneasy cross between a formidable and a comic character. The sight gag at the opening performance of Bartolo taking his miniature dog for a walk off stage was dropped. It wouldn’t have made much sense, given the lack of contrast between the two figures and Cokorinos’ dignified embodiment of the role.

Cokorinos sang with authority and experience. His patter might not have been the fastest on record, but he did try to make it intelligible even as the words exploded in his mouth like popcorn.

Ryan McKinny, who had a show-stopping aria last month in “Tamerlano,” sang the wily, conniving music master Don Basilio’s slander aria with power, if not with the booming, hall-filling sound bass of his predecessor. Yet, McKinny’s contained oiliness and especially his sly facial expressions when accepting gold as a bribe were priceless.

Ronnita Nicole Miller, a Domingo Thornton Young Artist, made the sneezing, smoking servant Berta an arresting figure, singing her over-the-hill aria with joyous amplitude and strength, and cutting a crisp caper in her flamenco dancer-like exit.

Incidentally, Los Angeles native and veteran flamenco dancer Juan Talavera transformed his cameo role of the aged servant, Ambrogio, throughout, but especially in Berta’s aria, from the traditionally dotty, deaf, old fool, into her lusty, would-be lover.

Daniel Armstrong, an alumnus of the Domingo Thornton Young Artists Program, sang his minor duties as Fiorello strongly. Michele Mariotti again conducted.

-- Chris Pasles


Opera Review: 'Barber of Seville' at L.A. Opera

Above: Dmitry Korchak in "The Barber of Seville." Credit: Robert Millard / LA Opera