Metropolitan Opera 2016-17 Preview: Peter Mattei, Javier Camarena, Pretty Yende Star in ‘Il Barbiere di Sivilgia’

By David Salazar

Rossini’s famed “Il Barbiere di Sivilgia” or “The Barber of Seville” returns to the Metropolitan Opera on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017 with an all-star cast for a whopping 10 performances through early February. Here is a look at what to expect from the company’s revival of the beloved work.

The Performers

A few years ago, Peter Mattei made a name for himself at the Metropolitan Opera in the title role of Figaro. He premiered the current production and was lauded for his fantastic comic timing and impeccable singing. That has led to numerous engagements at the big house and a blossoming international career that has seen him as one of the finest baritones of his generation.

As the quick-witted Rosina is South African singer Pretty Yende, who recently previewed what she can do with this tricky role during an episode of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

The role of her lover Count Almaviva will be shared by Mexican tenor Javier Camarena and Dmitry Korchak. Camarena rose to fame a few years ago when he took on “La Sonnambula” opposite Diana Damrau and then stepped in for an ailing Juan Diego Florez in a run of “La Cenerentola.” He is one of the best in this repertoire and made his Met debut in this very role back in 2011.

Korchak made his debut in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” back in 2015 and is well-known for his work in the bel canto repertoire.

Maurizio Muraro will alternate the role of Dr. Bartolo with Colombian bass Valeriano Lanchas (who sings for one performances), while Mikhail Petrenko and Oren Gradus also rotate Don Basilio.

Maurizio Benini conducts the entire run.

The Opera

The comedy is one of the greatest in the entire operatic canon, renowned for its show-stopping arias, its catchy tunes and its relentless pace. “Largo al factotum” is one of the most arias in the entire repertoire while Rosina’s “Una voce poco fa” is one that both mezzo sopranos and sopranos like to showcase in concert repertoire.

Of course, Rossini is well-known for his brilliant ensembles and few are as creative as his Act 1 Finale, a lengthy sequence of uninterrupted music that showcases an inebriated man, general chaos and a moment where still pervades before even more wild and uncontrolled energy brings down the curtain. It is the sheer genius of this sequence that makes the second half feel somewhat like a bit of a letdown with no corresponding musical genius to close out the opera as a whole.

Notable Recordings

Juan Diego Florez is arguably the most famous interpreter of Count Almaviva of this generation and he has a generous offering on DVD, including one performance from Madrid and another from London. The Madrid version features Maria Bayo in a more conservative approach while the latter features Joyce DiDonato in a wheelchair after an infamous accident during the first performance forced her to adjust to her situation for the balance of the run.

On the audio recording front, Hermann Prey is undeniably one of the best in the title role and he has his share of recordings including a prominent one with Teresa Berganza and Luigi Alva under the baton of Claudio Abbado.

Maria Callas, Alva and Tito Gobbi also have a rather dramatically fueled recording together with Carlo Maria Guilini at the podium.