Filled with hummable, upbeat melodies, Gioacchino Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" is the pop music of the opera world.
Like disco, this music is designed to make listeners feel good, smile and tap their feet.
Townsend Opera Players' English language production at the Gallo Center for the Arts is a joyful affair that allows all the performers to get in touch with their silly sides. Nobody is serious for very long in director Joseph Wiggett's staging.
First performed in Rome in 1816, the opera features stock comic characters — young lovers, an old lecherous man and clever servants.
Mezzo-soprano Irene Roberts is a delight as Rosina, a feisty young woman held against her will by her old guardian who wants to marry her. Roberts easily handles all the vocal pyrotechnics and nails the high notes. She is lovely and obviously enjoys playing the princess.
Bass-baritone Richard Cassell nearly steals the show with his comic antics as Rosina's guardian, Dr. Bartolo. He doesn't mind playing the fool, showing himself in love with Rosina even though she can't stand him.
Cassell and bass-baritone Michael Ventura, who plays Rosina's music teacher Don Bailio, are among the strongest singers in the cast with booming voices that can be heard clearly from the back of the theater.
That's not the case with baritone Kenneth Mattice, who plays the crafty title character Figaro, and tenor Gregory Zavracky, who plays Rosina's lover, Count Almaviva. While the handsome singers both have a nice tone, they are sometimes overpowered by the orchestra.
But Mattice is adept at patter singing and Zavracky demonstrates fine phrasing in his romantic ballads.
Soprano Sarah-Nicole Ruddy-Carter conveys a sharp wit and wistfulness as the lovelorn maid Berta while baritone Donn Bradley shows quiet confidence as the count's servant Fiorello.
Singers from Modesto Junior College's Opera Workshop make a fine showing in chorus roles as musicians and soldiers. It's wonderful to see TOP providing performance opportunities to young local talent.
The orchestra has never sounded better under conductor Ryan Murray's leadership.
Production designer Corey Strauss has once again contributed first-rate sets, which include a colorful Spanish village and Doctor Bartolo's well-appointed mansion complete with a heavily locked door. Costume designer Cindy DeFilippo finds appropriate 18th-century clothing for the cast, including tricorn hats and ruffled suits.
TOP's "The Barber of Seville" provides a chance to hear some of the best opera melodies ever written and to find escape from everyday cares and worries.