David Bazemore

Opera Santa Barbara Does Rossini’s ‘The Barber of Seville’

Sparkling Production Emphasized Outrageous Behavior and Disguises

In this sparkling production of The Barber of Seville, director Josh Shaw married Rossini’s glorious music to some sensational gender masquerade. Alexander Elliott cut an enviable Figaro, Cassandra Zoé Velasco’s Rosina glowed from within, and Andrew Bidlack positively threw out the book as a hell-raising, cross-dressing Count Almaviva. Under the baton of maestro Kostis Protopapas, the orchestra released the playful joy of an irrepressible score. Thanks to the musicians, Rossini had us at the overture.

Peter Strummer, an experienced character bass-baritone, drove the action forward as the unscrupulous and lewd Doctor Bartolo, a type of villain we can now see in sharper focus through the lens of the #MeToo movement. Shaw’s decision to dress Count Almaviva in drag for the famous music lesson sequence in Act II provided some big laughs for Bidlack and Strummer, who played the opening as pure slapstick. The spectacle of the wily count in a dress and a wig urging his nemesis Doctor Bartolo to feel “peace and joy” was priceless. Perhaps this is what we need more of right now — straight men in dresses singing songs of peace to the patriarchy.

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