In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" will close the season for the Florentine Opera Company. (PHOTO: Richard Brodzeller)

Florentine ready to display Rossini's "Barber of Seville" to close season

Start with a girl, beautiful and rich. Then add in her uncle and guardian, who wants to marry her so he can get the money, and toss in a high-born stranger who also wants the girl's hand in marriage. Mix in a few laughs, some cool songs and all kinds of devious activities, and it almost sounds like you've got the makings of a great country song or a Netflix original movie.

In reality, what you have is "The Barber of Seville," the famous Rossini opera that opens next week.

"The Barber of Seville" is an opera buffa in two acts by Gioachino Rossini with an Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini. Opera buffa is the phrase used to describe a certain category of comedic operas. The libretto was based on the 1775 French comedy, "Le Barbier de Séville." The premiere of Rossini's opera (under the title "Almaviva, o sia L'inutile precauzione") took place on Feb. 20, 1816 at the Teatro Argentina in Rome.

The opera has proven 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 200 years, it remains a popular work.

The performance – the opera's first appearance in Milwaukee in a decade – marks the end of Florentine's 83rd season. William Florescu will direct, and Joseph Rescigno will be at the podium, marking his 35th year with the company, making him the longest-serving principal conductor in opera today.

There are some intriguing highlights in this production, not the least of which is the American debut of the highly acclaimed Spanish Mezzo-soprano Carol Garcia. She has a very impressive resume, and Milwaukee audiences are justifiably excited about seeing her in action on the stage at the Marcus Center.

She was winner of the 2015 Young Artist Prize from Opers Actual. Born in Barcelona, Garcia was a semi-finalist at the 2008 Montserrat Caballé Singing Competition, and she was a finalist at the 2009 Luis Mariano Singing Competition, being awarded the Second Prize for Female Singers. She was also a finalist at the 2009 Francesco Viñas Competition '09, winning a scholarship and the special prize as the most promising Spanish singer and finalist of 2010 Paris Opera Competition.

She made her debut as Rosina Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Teatro Real, in Madrid, before singing Angelina La cenerentola at the Petit Liceu, a role she has also sung at the Tenerife Opera Festival.

She has drawn high praise in the world of opera.

"Garcia conquers the audience from its first 'Una volta,' with full-bodied, delicately flexible in the high, impeccably executed vocals, she gives a role full of sweetness and melancholy, and makes of Angelina a true romantic heroine," wrote Ammanuel Andiew of "Oper Online."

In addition to Garcia, the production will feature Baritone Luis Alejandro Orozco in his Florentine debut, as well as the return of Florentine favorites Soprano Katrina Thurman, Bass-baritone Peter Volpe and baritone Andrew Wilkowske.

The appearance on the podium of the venerable Rescigno is especially interesting given his lengthy tenure and how it began.

In 1980, John Gage, a former actor and theater director-turned-opera company manager, was appointed general director of the Florentine Opera Company. Later that year, he found himself in need of a conductor for "La Gioconda," starring Gilda Cruz-Romo, the following March. Having worked with Nicola Rescigno, he called Dallas, hoping that the maestro would be willing to come to Milwaukee. However, the elder Rescigno had never conducted the infrequently produced piece. He could think of only two names to recommend, one being that of his nephew, Joe (Joseph Rescigno), who ultimately conducted the opera.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

"Barber" is a wonderful way for Florentine to end its season and, thankfully, it will be sung in Italian with supertitles. I'm no opera expert, but I can say that I love opera when it's sung in the foreign language and find it easy to understand the story, thanks to the quality of the production and the music.

The Florentine show is scheduled for May 5 and 7. Information on tickets and showtimes is available here.

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