San Francisco-Assisi, first 50 years as Sister's Cities
In the wake of last month’s tribute to Maestro Verdi, the San Francisco Opera celebrated once again an Italian musical master, concluding in style the fall 2013-14 season.
Gioachino Rossini’s eternally fresh comic masterpiece The Barber of Seville has enchanted the public during the last month of November, with an acclaimed closing performance last Sunday, December 1st at the War Memorial Opera House.
Sung in Italian with English supertitles, the wonderful version of Il Barbiere di Siviglia, under the supervision of Director Emilio Sagi, featured the return to the podium of resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi, who leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra with “vigor and clarity” (San Francisco Chronicle).
Adding a further Italian signature to this eternal play with a libretto by Cesare Sterbini, the cast featured bass-baritone Alessandro Corbelli and bass singer Maurizio Muraro—in his San Francisco Opera debut—in the role of Doctor Bartolo, powerful bass Andrea Silvestrelli in the role of Don Basilio, while the role of Figaro was played by Lucas Meachem and Audun Iversen.
Two hundred years after its first performance, the comic style of Gioachino Rossini’s opera buffa in two acts is still di qualità, as main character Figaro proclaims when he approaches the stage singing the aria Largo al factotum della città, “make way for the servant of the city.”
The première of this world-renown opera, under the title Almaviva, o sia L’inutile precauzione, took place on February 20, 1816 at the Teatro Argentina, Rome. Though it was a disastrous failure, Rossini’s work continues to entertain today thanks to a charming score and charismatic cast.
The Barber of Seville recounts the first of the plays from the Figaro trilogy, by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais, and has been performed in 27 previous seasons at San Francisco Opera, with a first appearance on September 24, 1925.
San Francisco Opera Director Emilio Sagi declared: “My principal preoccupation when I began to work on The Barber of Seville was that in seeing the performance one would enjoy the brilliant music of Rossini, from where this theatrical project was born.”
“The scenery raises forth with the music of the overture, emerging with the obscurity, vacuum, the void”, he added. “I conceived the opera like a fragile jigsaw puzzle in that each scene is presented like a sketch, forming a series of mosaics, united by that frenetic poetic rhythm of the music, which pulses along the entire length of the opera”.
Italian Conductor Giuseppe Finzi made his debut with the San Francisco Opera in 2008, and returned for many other performances, such as La Bohème, Faust, La Fanciulla del West, Aida, Turandot, Carmen, Rigoletto, and Tosca, as well as the Company’s performances at the 2009 and 2011 Stern Grove Festivals.
A native of Bari, Italy, Finzi previously served as assistant conductor, coach, and pianist at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala. He made his conducting debut in 2003 with Tosca at the Teatro Rendano in Cosenza, and returned in 2004 for La Traviata.
Actively involved in the community, Finzi led a master class with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and conducted their spring production of Così fan tutte this past March. Upcoming engagements include The Nutcracker at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Rigoletto at Palermo’s Teatro Massimo, and a new production of Idomeneo at the Theater Lübeck in Germany.
San Francisco Opera presented also The Barber of Seville for Families, a special version of Rossini’s hilarious and beloved operatic tale. Designed to appeal to audiences of all ages and perfect for families and new opera-goers, the performance was a two-hour version of this season’s exciting production sung in English with English supertitles.
Before the show, it was possible to experience Rossini’s delightful comedy in an interactive, multi-generational exploration workshop based on the themes, story, characters, and music of the opera.
Gioachino Rossini’s Barber has proven again to be one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy within music, and has been described as the opera buffa of all opere buffe. Even after two hundred years, its popularity on the modern opera stage attests to that greatness.