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Oakwood homes during the
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Dayton Opera’s Barber of Seville a cut above

Who doesn’t love The Barber of Seville?  At least, who doesn’t love the famous “Largo al factotum” or “Figaro aria?” Dayton Opera has mounted a “Barber” proving that there is so much more to love in this familiar Rossini opera.  

Foremost is the cast.  Impresario Tom Bankston has the knack of assembling casts who love the opera and each other. This harmony is evident in all his productions.  For “Barber,” the cast is virtually a complete debut. Only the character Figaro, played by Andrew Garland, has previous Dayton Opera credits.

 The orchestra and the staging were invested in tried and true veterans. As conductor, DPO Maestro Neal Gittleman makes the music as fresh as springtime.  Great pacing and clear sound supported the singers in their panoply of tempi, making the bel canto truly “bel.” Jeff Powell’s tuneful harpsichord provides lilting support to the many operatic asides that connect the orchestral scenes.  

Gary Briggle’s all important stage direction preserves every bit of opera but makes comedy king.  Briggle has directed our Gilbert and Sullivan smash hits as well as playing the comedian roles. In setting “Barber” he made use of his innate comedic talents to give the action a constant flow of humor. It is done with taste and élan rather than slapstick and brashness.  

Of the many “Barbers” I have seen, this was the most complete ensemble.  It was not a Figaro opera, or a Rosina opera or a Lindoro/Count Almaviva opera. It was a comic opera in which the central character is comedy.  

Every single role is handled with great musicality, fine acting and stunning voice.  As Figaro, Garland has the voice, the stature and the stage presence to be wily and lovable, in equal measure.  

The lecherous Dr. Bartolo, guardian of the beautiful Rosina and covetous of her charms and her fortune, was sung by Joseph Rawley.  His clear bass voice made the most of his arias and, more important, his flow of recitatives.  

Mathew Burns as Don Basilio, the music teacher, nearly stops the show with his crystalline aria “La calunnia.”  Flitting from phrase to phrase with ballet-like movements, Burns makes his plot to spread scandal on Count Almaviva seem not only plausible but necessary.

As the Count and his disguise persona, Lindoro, John Zuckerman had to develop many styles.  He begins as the handsome but frustrated lover. He becomes both a drunken officer and a substitute music teacher to gain access to his beloved Rosina.  While not the most imposing swain, Zuckerman made every other aspect of his many faces soar with a clear tenor voice and concerted actions.

The voice of the opera belonged to the beautiful Rosina, created by Anne-Carolyn Bird.  She looks like a dream girl and acts like an angelic devil.  Just what Rossini had in mind. Her stunning soprano voice rang to every corner of the Schuster. She made everyone, audience, cast and orchestra love her - I certainly did.

Kudos to the chorus and to the comic pair of servants, Berta and Ambrogio, as sung by Mary Catherine Moroney and Matthew Alan Troillett.  Briggle gave them special ploys - Berta sneezed fortissimo at regular intervals while Ambrogio yawned.  They never descended into the customary slapstick but moved through the action with sparkling humor.

There are two more chances to hear this opera, Friday, April 4 and Sunday, April 6. After that, the season is still not over.  Soprano star Angela Brown returns to Dayton for a gala recital on May 2 and 4.  One of the great voices of our time, she will share the stage with the Wilberforce Choir in an unforgettable evening of arias, spirituals and art songs.  Only then will Dayton’s opera lovers will pack up and move their focus to Cincinnati’s summer festival.  It is a rich, full life!

Dayton Ballet’s Peter Pan

The beautiful dancers of the Dayton Ballet could be experiencing identity crises.

After assuming so many dramatic roles this season, some of these talented young people can’t remember whether to sword fight, fly to Never-Never land or go to Vietnam.  

The last of the three “story” ballets, Peter Pan, was done with customary élan and energy.  It is an engaging tale, done to Septime Webre’s exciting choreography and staged by Dayton Ballet’s retired superstar Sharon Lancaster. The set, full of fun, fit nicely onto the Schuster’s large stage.

Every member of the cast danced expertly and joyously.  As Peter and Wendy, Paul Gilliam and Christy Forehand captured the vivid imaginations and the hearts of the audience nearly full of youngsters.  

In fact, half of the show was in the foyer during intermission. Cadres of tiny darlings, some with fairy wings, were doing their best to fly.  After all, you just had to “think lovely thoughts.”  

Grant Dettling was a riotous Captain Hook.  Jennifer Grund and Rino Street were lovely as Tinkerbell and Tiger Lily.

April 24-27 marks the long awaited repertory concerts at the Victoria. In four exciting ballets created by Karen Russo, Gregory Robinson, Alan Hineline and William Whitener, the dancers will “let it rip.”  Two ballets feature original music.  All will be full of great dancing by a great company.

Interfaith Trialogue April 13

The Greater Dayton Interfaith Trialogue is a very active group of interested and interesting people.  Their goal is to communicate, through learning and sharing, the experiences of the three great religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

A special concert program, designed to highlight the richness of the cultures and their regions of the world, will be held on Sunday, April 13 at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Kettering.  Such local musical luminaries as pianist Tiraje Ruchman, sopranos Donna Reese and Angela Gorman, cellist Jane Katsuyama and cantor Jerome Kopmar will present a variety of musical offerings.  There will be dance, readings from the Quran and even the music of the Arabic instrument, the oud.

The program, free to the public, is scheduled for 3 p.m. A reception follows the performance.

Auditions for new 'Shoe2' ensemble slated

Rhythm in Shoes is inviting experienced tap dancers between the ages of 10 and 17 to audition for "Shoe2", a new second company being instituted by Rhythm in Shoes Auditions will be held at 4 p.m., Monday, April 21, in the Rhythm in Shoes studio on the fourth floor of the Metropolitan Arts Center, 126 N. Main Street. Advance reservations are requested.  

"Shoe2" will be comprised of a company of eight dancers aged 10 to 17. Young artists will receive training in tap and clogging, as well as body percussion, wooden shoe dancing, singing and traditional English  sword dances.  They will train two days a week, Mondays and Thursdays after school, with Rhythm in Shoes’ professional dancers, at a cost of $90 per month.

The ultimate goal is to enable participants to develop the discipline to master technique, work as an ensemble and see with a critical eye. As a junior ensemble the group will appear with the professional company at the Victoria Theatre for the Young at Heart Series on Nov. 15 & 16, 2008.

For more information call Noreen Willhelm at 226-7463.

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April 1, 2008
Volume 17, No. 14

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