Five Reasons Why ‘The Barber of Seville’ should be Your First Opera

Okay, let’s face it: when it comes to the younger crowd, opera tends to have a bad rap. “It’s boring,” “It’s hard to follow,” “I can’t understand what they are saying” are just a few of the common complaints. Thankfully Seattle Opera’s The Barber of Seville does not fall into any of the previous categories. The production, playing through January 29, is engaging, funny and, at times, had me on the edge of my seat. Here’s why you should see it, even if you think you don’t like opera:

1. The Story: Quite a few operas are long, involved tales of love, loss, jealousy, war and intrigue all mashed together into one main plot and numerous difficult-to-follow subplots. The Barber of Seville is easy to follow, and one always knows what’s happening on stage. In short, Count Almaviva falls in love with the beautiful Rosina, the ward of Dr. Bartolo, a cranky old man who plans to force her into marriage. With the help of the local barber Figaro, and several disguises, Count Almaviva sneaks into Dr. Bartolo’s home and woos his lover. Hilarity ensues.

2. The Characters: A show with more than ten characters can get confusing. Especially if the characters all have Italian or Spanish names and are dressed in similar 18th-century garb. The character list for this opera was short, and the singers played their parts well. From feisty Rosina to the bumbling, bombastic Don Basilio (Rosina’s music teacher) each character was unforgettable, and had the audience roaring with laughter.

3. The Comedy: Speaking of laughter, this was a comedic opera, so it didn’t end with tears, sadness and death (much to the chagrin of the dear friend and opera-lover who invited me). It was a really funny and light-hearted performance. The kind of story one could just get lost in for a while. Art doesn’t always have to be serious.

4. The Set: Masterfully built, the set for The Barber of Seville consists of three different sections of Dr. Bartolo’s home that rotate around an axis (like a carousel).  Both the interior and exterior of the on-stage home are elaborate and fancifully decorated; the perfect backdrop for the ornately costumed characters.

5. The Music:  So, the music might not be at the top of your iTunes playlist, but I’m willing to bet you will recognize more than a few of the songs in the this performance. The famous “Make way for the factotum” will leave you wanting to sing along as the barber belts out, “Figaro! Figaro! Fi-GAH-ro!” but I suggest you refrain, even if only for the sake of the other patrons sitting in your row.