by Chiara Licari
Three descending notes in particular first come to mind when thinking of the opera, accompanied by a very distinct word—Figaro. Figaro is in fact the name of a madcap barber who turns matchmaker in one of the most revered operas of all time, The Barber of Seville. Directed by Bernard Uzan, Opera Grand Rapids presents the comedy May 12 and 13.
Audiences are often intimidated by how difficult the opera can be to understand, however, these performances are presented with English subtitles to accompany the Italian, making it more engaging for those who may not be as familiar with the genre or the language. After much involvement with The Barber of Seville, playing Figaro in his youth and now directing the production, Uzan believes this in particular is a fantastic show to see regardless of your previous level of interaction with opera.
“It’s great for a new audience,” Uzan said. “The music is very entertaining and fun. I would recommend this to everyone—even children.”
The story unfolds in southwestern Spain where a young Count Almaviva woos Rosina, a beautiful maiden who has been kept locked away by Doctor Bartolo. Bartolo intends to marry Rosina, but is hindered by Almaviva and Figaro, Bartolo’s barber, who create plans to distract him and halt his plans to marry Rosina.
Composed by Gioachino Rossini in the 19th century, The Barber of Seville is celebrated for its splendid music and abundant humor, making it one of the most popular operas of all time. Uzan expresses that much about the show makes it funny and enjoyable, and he hopes that the audience will take something away from it.
“[I hope] they leave the theater happy, relaxed, full of joy and entertained,” he said. “But of course, there is a deeper meaning. It’s a love story. I want them to leave the theater happy and also more knowledgeable of human relations.”
It has been Uzan’s objective to respect Rossini’s original work and not change the show, as putting it in the context of the 21st century would not give the historic work justice. Before attending, Uzan offers us one piece of advice:
“Come to the theater with a completely open mind. Arrive open to all possibilities.”