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Hair-tussling fun with 'The Barber of Seville' |

Modern Living

Hair-tussling fun with 'The Barber of Seville'

ARTMAGEDDON - Igan D’Bayan - The Philippine Star

So, get this. Doctor Bartolo (a lustful physician; dirty old mannish) has the hots for his ward Rosina (prone to daydreams and letter-writing). But lurking on the streets of Seville  smitten with the fair Rosina  is the Count Almaviva (who assumes a battery of disguises), and with the help of a dare-devilish barber named Figaro (a mercenary-like go-between who’s always in the middle of something) works as his accomplice.

Now that’s one chaotic caboodle. But the brilliant performance of the distinguished Filipino and Italian cast headed by multi-awarded baritone Mario Cassi (as the Barber of Seville), soprano Rachelle Gerodias (Rosina), Marco Filippo Romano (Don Bartolo), Arthur Espiritu (Conte D’Almaviva; Arthur is the second Filipino to perform at La Scala in Milan), and US-based tenor Andrew Fernando (with his booming, booming voice as Don Basilio) transformed the chaos into an endearing reading of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, which was staged recently at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). 

They all worked under Italian director Antonio Petris (who is also the set & costume designer), with Rugerro Barbieri, former music director and principal conductor of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), as guest conductor.

In an interview prior to the performance, Rachelle Gerodias recalled, “Nedy Tantoco and conductor Ruggero Barbieri approached me. They wanted to feature Arthur (Espiritu) and myself. They (wanted to stage an opera production and) were looking for something fresh, something that hasn’t been performed recently. I don’t even remember the last time The Barber of Seville had been performed here (in Manila).”

And opera is not what you’d consider a staple in our own neck of the woods, but Andrew Fernando assured how Filipinos will love opera once they get to experience it in all its thunder-and-lightning grandeur. He explained, “For people who haven’t seen opera before, it’s like trying a new dish. You look at it, it looks complicated and you’re not even sure you’re going to like it. Then you try it and, after the first bite, say, ‘Oh my God, there’s something to this and I think I’m going to love it!’ There are a lot of preconceived ideas about what opera is. That only the rich and the educated can understand it. But actually it’s an art form created for people from all walks of life.”

Based on how the audience laughed and laughed at the antics of the “(mis) adventurous” characters in Rossini’s opera, we get the feeling that Fernando was right all along.

Cut above the rest

According to Rustan Group of Companies and Philippine Italian Association (PIA) president Zenaida “Nedy” Tantoco, it takes extraordinary resolve to mount a great Italian masterpiece. “Thanks to our extraordinary partners in believing in the project and for making the two performances possible.”

Fittingly, this most acclaimed of Italian operas marks the triple celebration of the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Italy, the 60th anniversary of Rustan’s (with its reputation for pioneering Italian merchandise in the Philippines) and the 50th anniversary of the Philippine Italian Association which promotes cultural exchange between the Philippines and Italy. Rustan’s, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the official hotel sponsor The Peninsula Manila (which is always supportive of arts and culture), in cooperation with the Embassy of Italy, all joined hands making this operatic gala possible together with one of the major sponsors Metrobank Card, and in cooperation with Resorts World Manila, Megaworld, and One Mega Group Inc.

The Manila production of The Barber of Seville was for the benefit of the Philippine Italian Association Endowment Fund which supports not only cultural events but also the Sister Handmaids of Charity and the Servants of Charity, two charitable institutions run by Italian Missionaries, devoted to the care of the sick, elderly, special children, abandoned and malnourished children.

An additional beneficiary will be the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra’s historic friendship tour of the US in 2013.

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