Today’s noon-hour presentation at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was a teaser, sampling Act I of the upcoming Ensemble Studio performance of Rossini’s Barber of Seville. These concerts are usually less than an hour including announcements, but today’s was a very full hour with almost no talk. I’d say we got our money’s worth, which is fair considering that it’s a free concert.
I’ve already seen the production with the regular cast, a highly visual exploration of the text from Els Comediants that appears to have been influenced by the Commedia dell’Arte. At times the movement vocabulary from director Joan Font requires his performers to behave as though they were puppets. I came away from the production feeling a bit unsatisfied, delighted with some brilliant individual performances but unconvinced, at least in comparison to the previous show I’d seen from the same artistic team.
I’m not sure how much today’s concert –using piano (the excellent pianist Jennifer Szeto), and without sets or costumes—is a fair sample of the Ensemble show coming May 15th, but I had many of the same feelings today. Els Comediants’ understanding of The Barber is something I’d characterize as Regie-light, a director’s theatre that doesn’t mess with the original even as the personas of director and designer are inserted into the field of view & reception. It’s mostly a good thing, but nowhere near as thorough as the clarity they brought to La Cenerentola.
A concert performance makes it easy to get close to the artistry, without any Comediants interventions to distract us. All we have is the voices & piano, plus a few stage directions. While there may be some shenanigans overall voice trumps schtick. When we were laughing it was because of artistry, not gimmicks.
Andrew Haji did a star turn today, (echoing the pathway charted by Alek Shrader in the “A” cast) both in his stylish singing and his energetic clowning. Iain MacNeil gave him a run for his money, making “A un dottor della mia sorte” work the old-fashioned way, namely with a buffo voice & dead-pan delivery. Karine Boucher showed us that her Berta will likely take a different interpretative approach than Aviva Fortunata, briefly terrorizing everyone on stage, suggesting that she’s got a genuine gift for comedy; I can’t wait to see what she does with the role, even if it’s brief(was it Stanislavski who said “there are no small parts, just small actors”..?). Charlotte Burrage, Clarence Frazer, and Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure also displayed ample charm & high spirits.
The aforementioned Ensemble Studio performance is coming Friday May 15th.