Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Portrait of Giovanni Paisiello, 1791
(composer shown with score of his opera Nina on the clavichord)
It did so in more or less the St. Petersburg version of the opera, with spoken dialogue instead of the recitatives added later when the composer was back in Italy. Since the Italian pronunciation of the singers was less than beautiful, the dialogue could have easily been spoken in English, allowing even more of the immediacy of the work -- many segments have been translated more or less directly from the Beaumarchais play -- to come through. Beaumarchais's opening scene, which showed Figaro working out the details of a serenade he was composing, is set ingeniously in Paisiello's score, with little recitative interjections interrupting the flow of the orchestral score -- a scene that Rossini's later version chose to excise, beginning instead with Almaviva's serenade to Rosina. Figaro's expressions of class conflict ("I thought myself all too happy to be forgotten by the powers that be, persuaded that a nobleman does well enough by us when he does us no harm," for example), not surprisingly, are mostly ironed out, so as not to offend the empress's ear. The jokes about writing opera peppering the libretto, an example of the composer and librettist poking fun at themselves, are icing on the cake.
The cast was a good assortment of strong local singers, including notable character tenor Robert Baker as Count Almaviva and baritone James Shaffran as a Figaro more bumbling than clever. The strongest singing came from bass-baritone Eugene Galvin as a nail-spitting Dr. Bartolo and Peter Becker as a dim-witted Basilio. Soprano Jennifer Casey Cabot, a singer on the rise, was a full-bodied Rosina, with only a vibrato perhaps just a notch too active susceptible to criticism. Her window aria, in dialogue with the pale flauto traverso, was one of the evening's highlights. Young artists Andrew Sauvageau (with whom the author has occasionally sung in choir) and William Bouvel hammed it up to hilarious effect as the yawning and sneezing servants, respectively. This scene is extended musically from Beaumarchais's characters La Jeunesse (who is very old and sneezes constantly) and L'Éveillé (who is young and stupid and always falling asleep -- the character names are obviously ironic).
Anne Midgette, ‘Positions 1956’ and ‘Barbiere di Siviglia’ (Washington Post, April 16)
Opera Lafayette also announced its 2012-2013 season. The two complete operas to be performed will be the modern premiere of Félicien David's Lalla Rouhk (based on a taste of the work we had from the company in 2008, this will be well worth your while), in a production with an Indian dance company, and Charpentier's charming pastoral Actéon. There will also be a recital featuring French soprano Emmanuelle de Negri.