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September 18, 2009

Washington National Opera's 'Barber of Seville' a snappy staging

In case you missed it in print, or elsewhere on the paper's Web site, I thought I should mention my review of Washington National Opera's season-opening 'Barber of Seville' production finally saw the light of day. (The BSO gala was the same night as the first 'Barber' performance, so I was a little slow catching up with it.)

The production is a snappy affair (literally, in one respect), and it does something few 'Barbers' do for me these days -- provokes fresh laughs.

And it's a great opportunity to experience Lawrence Brownlee onstage, having a field day, vocally and theatrically, as Almaviva. In addition to his enormous talent, the tenor can't help but


be seen in symbolic terms, too. Few black tenors have performed major roles with major opera companies, so it's doubly significant that Brownlee has been triumphing at the Met, La Scala, Vienna State Opera and elsewhere.

The DC 'Barber' production also introduces a very impressive mezzo, Silvia Tro Santafe. She has 'bright future' written all over her. And the conducting of Michele Mariotti is far from routine. He really knows how to uncork the bubbly stuff in Rossini's score, and how to massage tempos for maximum impact.

For another view of the production, see my colleague Anne Midgette's take on last weekend's opening night performance. Also, from the Ionarts blog, Charles T. Downey weighs in.


Posted by Tim Smith at 11:01 AM | | Comments (0)

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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