Go inside this production of The Barber of Seville with engaging articles, notes from the director, a complete plot synopsis, artist bios, and more.
Welcome to Lyric! We’re delighted that you’re joining us for the opening of what is sure to be a season of tremendously exciting productions and glorious music-making.
There couldn’t be a better opera to start the season than The Barber of Seville, one of the most exhilarating works in the repertoire. Barber captivates audiences all over the world thanks to its effervescent music, matched by its irresistible wit. That’s no surprise, since Gioachino Rossini is opera’s greatest musical comedian. It’s impossible to leave a performance of this opera without a smile. In every brilliant aria and ensemble Barber’s energy, virtuosity, and sparkle combine to make it the most popular and best-loved of all operatic comedies.
Our renowned music director, Sir Andrew Davis, has a wonderful affinity for Rossini. He brings to this music not just his amazing gifts as a musician, but also his own irrepressible sense of humor. He’ll be conducting a marvelous cast of international stars, including four favorites of the Lyric audience: Adam Plachetka, Lawrence Brownlee, Marianne Crebassa, and Alessandro Corbelli. Director Rob Ashford and his brilliant design team approach Barber with terrific imagination, and we know the production will be a joy for everyone.
It’s a very exciting time to be part of Lyric. We’re producing more new types of work than ever before. Our musical-theater productions and other Lyric-produced special events are attracting tens of thousands of new patrons, and we’re on the cusp of producing an extraordinary new Ring cycle. And, in 2020/21, we’ll be welcoming The Joffrey Ballet as they take up residency in the Lyric Opera House.
We’re thrilled to have just announced the appointment of our new music director, Enrique Mazzola, who will take up the position in two years. He’ll be an outstanding successor to Sir Andrew Davis, and a real spark in Chicago’s performing-arts community. The dynamic Italian conductor is already looking forward to engaging with our entire city.
Put all of these major developments together and you’ll see a company striving to become a true visionary arts leader in Chicago and throughout America. The real measure of success is how often and in how many different ways people choose to interact with Lyric. The opera house is our home, but our mission is to engage people where they are, reflecting the city and communities we serve. This means making the entire experience welcoming and engaging by looking at the performance through a variety of lenses.
Our goal is to provide new ways to ensure that our audiences’ initial encounter with Lyric is so impactful and entertaining that new patrons will make Lyric a part of their lives. By focusing on building our audience of the future, while we continue to serve our current audiences, we’ll ensure that both Lyric and opera itself remain culturally relevant and artistically important for the next generation.
We hope you feel the drumbeat of progress at Lyric as much as we do. Together we are all part of the Lyric story.
General Director, President & CEO
The Women’s Board Endowed Chair
David T. Ormesher
THE PREMIERE OF THIS PRODUCTION MARKED YOUR EAGERLY AWAITED OPERATIC DEBUT. HAVE YOU BEEN GOING TO OPERA MOST OF YOUR LIFE, OR ARE YOU A CONVERT?
When I was in college in Pittsburgh, I danced in the corps de ballet at Pittsburgh Opera—that was my first taste of it. Then, when I moved to New York, one of my first jobs was dancing at
the Met for a year. My first show there was Hal Prince’s production of Faust. I feel as if my operatic education happened in the Met canteen, sitting with other dancers and seeing everyone in costume—that was where I felt I began to learn. Also, we could see anything we wanted. If I was having a rehearsal and we finished early, I’d go watch a stage rehearsal or a dress rehearsal.
At that time in my life it was less about the particular performances and much more about the scope. That’s what blew me away.
WHAT DREW YOU TO THE BARBER OF SEVILLE AS A FIRST OPERA TO DIRECT?
Anthony Freud had many interesting observations about why it would be a good fit. It might have been the fact of comedy being something we do a lot in musicals—understanding comic timing, the simplicity and focus of it. The focus on the stage in key moments was something Anthony felt I knew about from years of doing musicals—the idea of being able to focus on a small moment, inside a big tableau. You don’t have a camera, you’ve got a whole stage
that’s alive, but you have to see the moment where the boy falls in love with the girl!
BARBER IS SO OFTEN PLAYED JUST FOR LAUGHS. HOW DO YOU BRING HUMANITY TO IT?
It’s a love story! Working with Scott Pask and Catherine Zuber, the idea was that it should be romantic. The pure passion and the unabashed primary colors of Rosina and Count Almaviva’s love—or lust—for each other are what causes the comedy. People do silly things when they’re in love! I hope to find the humanity in the comic characters, or at least, to take them through that doorway of reality to find their humor.
DO YOU PREPARE FOR THIS THE SAME WAY YOU PREPARE TO DIRECT A MUSICAL (OTHER THAN THE LANGUAGE BEING DIFFERENT)?
It’s all about the text—that’s the way I approach everything. If I’m going to do a play or musical, I focus in on the text, what’s on the page, not other productions, and not “We’re going to do it differently from what so-and-so did,” and try to get to the essence of it.
I’ve directed Shakespeare—in a way, that’s a different language as well! I’m thrilled, actually, that I did Shakespeare before working with an Italian text. The meanings are so particular, that kind of research. I found it liberating to do Macbeth. It’s been the same with Barber—getting to the essence of what they’re saying, what the true translation is. I enjoy it, rather than feeling like it’s in the way.
HOW DID BEAUMARCHAIS’ PLAY HELP YOU?
He got it right! And Rossini based his opera on it, so it makes me trust the writing and not make me want to second-guess it. Because the play is so sound and Rossini’s work on top of that is so sound, it gives you an amazing freedom because you trust the material so much that you don’t question—you just try to bring it to life.
HOW DO YOU EXPECT THE HUMOR TO EMERGE ONSTAGE?
From the situation these characters find themselves in.
HOW DID YOU AND SCOTT PASK GO ABOUT CONCEIVING THE PARTICULAR ENVIRONMENT OF SEVILLE—WHAT WERE YOUR PRIORITIES?
I’ve been to Seville, and I know the Moorish influence there. I was keen to highlight the Spanish influence more. We have the beautiful tiles, the wrought iron, the grillwork, the gate—it feels traditionally Spanish.
HOW DO YOU USE YOUR ABILITIES AS A CHOREOGRAPHER IN THIS PIECE?
When you have an idea for a dance and you make up some steps, you must put them on the dancer. And if the steps don’t suit the dancer, you need to change the steps. You want to make the dancer shine, so it would be crazy for me to choreograph a dance where the girl kicks only her right leg and her leg doesn’t look good kicking! When I direct, I have a basic idea of how everything should be, but I have to put it on them. And if it doesn’t suit them, I need to
alter it, still getting to my point, still delivering my vision, but I’ve got to put it on them.
WHAT’S YOUR GOAL WITH THIS PRODUCTION?
I’d love it if people who know this piece say, “It was fresh. It wasn’t the same 20 gags that are always done”—that would be really exciting for me.