Figaro, the barber in Rossini’s comic romp of an opera, “The Barber of Seville,” isn’t just a guy with a straight-edge razor blade. As the character so memorably reminds us in his opening aria, he manages to fit a lot more into his workday than trimming hair. He’s basically an “arranger” — someone who has his hand in just about everyone’s business in town, especially when it comes to matters of love. As Figaro reminds us, he makes good money, meets interesting people and is always in the know. No wonder he thinks it’s the perfect job.
From his opening moments as Figaro in the California Opera production Sunday at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre, Constantine Pappas ably captured that happy sense of exuberance. So did the production as a whole. With an excellent cast, great singing and an always upbeat confidence, it was one of the strongest Cal Opera titles I’ve seen in recent years.
Stage director James Coventry’s clever, spiffy staging set a nimble tone early on and never let up. Standouts among the excellent principals were bass-baritone George Skipworth as Basilio and bass Lee Strawn as Dr. Bartolo. Both could teach master classes in comic timing. And their vocals were stellar.
Jamie Bonetto, a Cal Opera veteran, offered stirring arias as Rosina, and Robert Vann showed his own comic deftness and promising vocals as Count Almaviva, the disguise-loving suitor. Alexandra Jerinic made the most of her moment in the spotlight as the sneezing maid. It says a lot about this production that even a small role, such as Adam Cooke’s Fiorello, was played with a frisky assurance.
Kudos, too, to Richard Adamson, credited with costuming, scenic design and props. The look and feel of the production was first-rate.
The audience reserved its most thunderous applause for Pappas, who made the most of his big starring debut. His youthful Figaro offered a lively foundation for the show, and he ably demonstrated a preview of what his big, pleasing voice can offer in the future. Most important, he had fun, and the audience did, too. Like his character, Pappas seemed in love with his job, and it showed.