Barber shorn of the extraneous

Tomorrow at 3 pm is the last performance of the Barber of Seville. A review (local daily) and the Austin Lyric Opera company itself have made much of the supposedly barebones production values, since scenery apparently is minimal and the orchestra shares the stage with the singers. I haven’t yet attended this show because I swapped my usual Saturday tickets for Sunday ones, but there’s nothing novel about a minimal Barber and ALO itself has used very spare, yet novel and evocative, stagings for performances of various operas at the old Coliseum and at the Paramount.

The first performance of The Barber of Seville that I ever attended was right here in Austin, at the Capitol Theater (eventually the first Ruta Maya and now Halcyon). We sat on bleachers, and the performance was sort of in the round and was accompanied minimally, by two pianos if I remember correctly. The house was full and the audience enjoyed every minute. At the Coliseum, now of fond memory and known for its wrestling cards, concerts, and as part of the livestock show grounds as much as for anything else, we experienced the most enjoyable performances ever of Rigoletto and also of Carmen, again partly in the round and with bleachers for seating. Special effects for the transformation in Cenerentola (Rossini’s version of the Cinderella story) at the Paramount amounted to darkness and some sparklers.

So nobody should be deterred from attending The Barber of Seville. The music will be great, both singers and orchestra, and people will leave humming the tunes. It’s at the Riverbend Centre, which seems to be a l-o-n-g way from Austin central, but that’s the only drawback and, of course, for many it’s closer than the UT campus. And there are no bleachers.

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