The gala of “The Barber of Seville” had the audience—even first-timers to the opera—delighted.
Rarely performed in the Philippines, the opera buffa (comic opera) was the main attraction. However, it had all the ingredients that made it a pleasure to watch—a superb cast of local and foreign artists; an Italian director who made the opera accessible to an audience sporadically exposed to the art; an Italian conductor who remained true to composer Gioacchino Rossini’s intentions; and a cavernous CCP Main Theater made friendly with the modern sets by an Italian team and mood lighting by designer Joaquin José Aranda.
The audience understood the Italian dialogue, thanks to the English subtitles above the stage.
“The Barber of Seville” is about frustrated lovers calculating a way to block an overly protective guardian with the help of a barber.
Mario Cassi as Figaro, the barber, was full-voiced and articulate. His sense of the character was energetic and assertive, human and not caricaturish.
Rachelle Gerodias rendered a spirited portrayal of Rosina that combined humor with warmhearted vulnerability.
Arthur Espiritu as Count Almoviva sang with a bright, tenorish ring and exuded strong stage presence. His distinctive timbre and articulation were technically adept.
Marco Filippo Romano as Don Bartolo sang with glorious clarity and performed with perfect comic timing.
Andrew Fernando was an amusing Basilio with a bearish voice.
Antonio Petris’ direction clarified the details of the convoluted plot and the emotions of the characters. The humor was never forced and the recitatives were executed with brio.
Former CCP Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Ruggiero Barbieri flew to Manila to conduct a small but responsive orchestra with a buoyant touch and a pleasing sense of phrase.
This has been a bumper crop year for the operas in the Philippines. However, “The Barber of Seville” was the biggest event because it was an activity that marked the 60 years of Rustan’s Department Store; 65 years of Philippine-Italian ties; and 50 years of the Philippine-Italian Endowment Fund.
The real feat here is how Zenaida Tantoco, president of Rustan’s Commercial Corporation and Stores Specialists Inc., is proving that the support of corporations and friends can help keep the culture scene alive—and at a high level of quality.
The patrons for this opera compose of the Who’s Who: Sen. Edgardo Angara; Ramon Ang of San Miguel; agri-billionaire Joseph Calata; advertising executive Dolores Cheng; Gretchen Cojuangco; publisher Irene Francisco; Ambassador Antonio Lagdameo; former Sen. Jamby Madrigal; Judy Roxas.
The opera ran some three hours long. During intermission, the audience on the orchestra level were given stubs for Starbucks coffee and Gonuts Donuts, while the VIPs in the boxes had wine and pass-around canapés.
Close to midnight, heavy cocktails were served at the Silanganan restaurant. The guests were far from bleary-eyed as they talked about the brilliant production.
For the gala night, the audience was willing to spend P5,000 to watch a well-paced show for the sake of charity.