'The Barber of Seville': Oh, we meant to do it this way
With Bass Concert Hall no longer available, Austin Lyric Opera is working to stage The Barber of Seville in a hall with no orchestra pit, no proscenium, and no wing space
The hall they've ended up sailing in is Riverbend Centre, Dr. Gerald Mann's richly realized modern version of a Greco-Roman amphitheatre on Capital of Texas Highway. Directing the company's new production of The Barber of Seville is longtime ALO vocalist Joey Evans, who teaches voice at the University of Houston. "We're taking what is fundamentally a liability and turning it into an asset," says Evans. "We're making it look like we intended to do it at Riverbend in the first place. Conceptually, we had to figure out a way to use a space that has no orchestra pit, no proscenium arch, no wing space, no way to do a typically theatrical kind of situation. So, some platforms were built to extend the stage a little bit, but the orchestra is actually onstage and part of the action. The conductor's part of the action. We may even make you a part of the action!"
Whether you're made part of the action or not, it's fairly certain that, even if you've seen Rossini's classic before, you've never seen it performed quite like this. Says Evans, "I sat down with David Nancarrow, our production designer, and we designed two colorful rolling cubes, and they transform into everything: a house, a shop, a balcony. The entire show comes out of those cubes. The chorus is pretty much choreographed from beginning to end. There's a lot of running and jumping, so everybody's losing weight. A lot of stuff goes on that we let the audience see that they wouldn't normally see. At one point there's a quick costume change that takes about 11 seconds. It's a lot of fun."
Opera that's fun? You might want to take the kids to this one.
The Barber of Seville runs Saturday, April 14, 7:30pm; Monday, April 16, 7:30pm; Friday, April 20, 7:30pm; and Sunday, April 22, 3pm, at Riverbend Centre, 4214 Capital of TX Hwy. N. For more information, call 472-5992 or visit www.austinlyricopera.org.