Bartlett Sher’s marvelous production of Rossini’s most popular opera, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, thrilled Met audiences in 2007. Brilliantly sung, freshly realized and consistently comical, it’s clear that this Barber knows his trade. 

Joyce DiDonato (Rosina) and Juan Diego Flórez (Count Almaviva / Lindoro) are vocally sublime. Rosina’s “Una voce poco fa” is delivered flawlessly, with DiDonato’s characteristically warm, well-focused sound negotiating some brilliant, innovative coloratura. Her Rosina is a red, curly-haired little vixen, mischievously running circles around Dr Bartolo (John Del Carlo) with a gleam in her eye. Star tenor Juan Diego Flórez, meanwhile, truly brings the house down. He is an irresistible force of nature, whether lyrically wooing Rosina in “Ecco ridente in cielo” or tearing through uncountable coloratura passages in “Ah, il più lieto” with power and ease. Moreover, “Ehi, di casa”, where he appears dressed as a soldier and feigns inebriation, is downright hilarious and proves that he is much more than just a pretty voice.

Peter Mattei is a very entertaining Figaro, making his entrance on a massive, red-and-white-striped wagon pulled by a bevy of ladies of questionable morals. During his “Largo al factotum”, the wagon opens to display everything a hair stylist could possibly need: wigs, flowers, a plethora of scissors and razors, brushes, masks and jewelry. At the close of the show, he can be seen paying off the orchestra and giving his cards out to audience members. John Del Carlo is no less diverting as Dr Bartolo. His patter song “A un dottor della mia sorte” is uproarious and impressive, and the scene where he is shaved is great physical comedy. His entrance at the top of the second act starts with him first addressing the camera, then the conductor and finally the audience. John Relyea’s (Don Basilio) “La calunnia” is fabulous, and even minor characters Ambrogio (Rob Besserer) and Berthe (Claudia Waite) are well integrated into the action. In the backstage scene during intermission, Mr Besserer shows his brilliant comedic talent by staying in character and doggedly following around Mr Del Carlo. He gets lost in props, gapes at set pieces and even kisses something that looks like a horse backstage. He is also the only one to be aware of the massive anvil falling from the sky during the course of the first finale, while the rest of the cast sing on obliviously.

Sher’s top-notch direction also saw to a visually pleasing, yet evocative set, designed by Michael Yeargan. Quirky and unconventional, the design revolves around a number of large, movable wooden doors with frames, painted yellow and clearly worn. These doors are arranged in every conceivable constellation, as are the numerous orange trees, background scenes and screens, and occasional balconies that create the stage design. The stage itself extends outwards around the orchestra pit by wooden planks, which are utilized in a number of scenes including the Lindoro/Barbiere duet “Numero quindici, a mano manca” and both finales. A high point is the “temporale” scene, a musical storm, where furniture and trees swirl about, papers fly, extras run around with inside-out umbrellas and a screen full of dynamic clouds is dragged across stage by Ambrogio.

Bravo to a strong cast and excellent direction for putting one of the most popular opera buffa creations of all time in a new light through successful staging, direction and musical realization.