Rimrock Opera Event at Cafe was Special
Students Delighted by Rimrock Opera
Familiarity with 'Barber of Seville'
makes Rimrock Opera's latest production accessible to
‘The Barber of
Seville' By KJERSTEN OLSGAARD
Where do I begin with my praise
for the Rimrock Opera Company’s impressive and
successful production of “The Barber of Seville?”
The small yet strikingly strong and confident pit
orchestra, the elaborate sets and costumes, the
vocalists who failed to trip over packed tongue twisters
and nailed notes that left members of the audience
shaking their heads in amazement, and the cleverly
translated lyrics that preserved a natural rhythm and
rhyme are a good start.
The attentive crowd
chuckled through the evening to this comedic opera by
Italian composer Rossini. Conducted by Andy Anderson and
directed and produced by Douglas Nagel, “The Barber of
Seville” tells the story of Almaviva who, with the help
of his friend Figaro, steals away his love Rosina from
her overprotective guardian, Dr. Bartolo.
Because of their skilled execution, enormous talent and
comfort on stage, soprano Lisa Lombardy (Rosina) and
baritone Chris Johnson (Figaro) were known as the locals
only because the program identified them so. These two
performed perfectly on par if not stronger than their
My only criticism of the
show was the small horizontal screen directly above the
stage projecting the English text. At times, the text
would not match up with the performance. A word or
phrase would be dropped, the text would stop altogether
or it wouldn’t move in sync with the vocalist’s
The screen was so small and high enough
above the stage, however, that it did not entirely
disrupt one’s enjoyment of the performance.
The Barber of Seville
September 26 and 27, 2009
Tickets go on sale July 25
at ABT! Call 256-6052
Rossini’s spicy masterpiece is a nonstop comedy express. Its
spirited music bounces us happily along with the outrageous mayhem
dispensed by a singing barber. Chris Johnson and Lisa Lombardy take
leading roles. Chosen to commemorate Rimrock Opera’s tenth
anniversary, The Barber of Seville is a reprise of the company’s
inaugural opera produced in November,1999.
The Barber of Seville is sung in English with English text projected above
Cast and Crew:
Douglas Nagel, producer and
Andy Anderson, conductor
Lisa Lombardy, Rosina
Chris Johnson, Figaro
Sean T. Miller, Count Almaviva
Aaron Taylor, Dr. Bartolo
Dennis Rupp, Basilio
Daren Small, Fiorello
Chris Sheppard, Chorus Master
Sandi Rabas, Staff Pianist
Angie Stidham, Wig/Make-up Designer
Alex Heyneman, Lighting Designer
Richelle Sitton, Orchestra
Sets from Utah Festival Opera
Costumes from Westendorf
Wigs from Theatrical Hairgoods
Beaumarchais’ trilogy of plays
includes The Barber of Seville, the basis for
Rossini’s opera. It is the story of a young nobleman,
Almaviva, who wins his lover, Rosina, away from her
lecherous guardian, Dr. Bartolo—but only with
considerable help from his friend Figaro. In the sequel
set several years later, Figaro, central character in
all three plays, is up to new tricks in the employ of
Count and Countess Almaviva. That play became Mozart’s
opera, The Marriage of Figaro, performed one year
ago by Rimrock Opera. The humorous irony of these
stories turns on the shocking--talk of the town in
pre-Revolution Paris--portrayal of servants manipulating
and outwitting nobility.
Dawn, Seville, Spain, 1600s
Scenes: Exterior & Living room of
Dr. Bartolo's Estate
Scene 1: Outside of Doctor
Bartolo’s house, Lindoro, (Count Almaviva
disguised as a poor student) has assembled a group of
musicians to serenade the beautiful (and wealthy)
Rosina, but she is kept in seclusion by her guardian,
Dr. Bartolo. The Count’s former servant, Figaro,
local barber, jack-of-all-trades, consultant and
confidant to the aristocracy, appears. He agrees, for
compensation, to help his old boss, the Count, get his
girl. Figaro devises a plan to sneak the Count into the
house as a drunken soldier ordered to stay there for
Act I - Scene 2: The much older
Bartolo intends to marry his ward, Rosina, for her
money. Rosina, who only knows the Count by the name
Lindoro, writes him a love letter. When Bartolo arrives
with Basilio, Rosina leaves. Bartolo suspects
that the Count is in town to court Rosina. Basilio
advises Bartolo that the Count needs to be removed. As
they leave, Rosina and Figaro enter and Figaro asks her
to write a letter to Lindoro. Rosina gives him the
letter that she has already written.
Act I - Finale: The drunken
soldier (the Count) arrives and Bartolo tries to kick
him out. The Count is able to pass a love letter that he
has written to Rosina. Hearing all of the commotion, the
police burst in and Bartolo demands that they arrest the
“drunken soldier.” The Count quietly reveals his
identity--not only is he a nobleman, but also the
commander of the Spanish military. The startled police
officer immediately releases him.
Act II – Scene 1: Count Almaviva
comes back to Bartolo’s house, this time disguised as
Don Alonso, a music apprentice of Basilio’s who is there
to substitute for Rosina’s music lesson. He explains to
Bartolo that Basilio is very ill. The Count pretends to
give Rosina a music lesson. Figaro is there to give
Bartolo his daily shave. Figaro slips off to find the
key to Bartolo’s balcony so that they can unlock it and
sneak Rosina out in the middle of the night. Basilio
unexpectedly shows up. Basilio is not really ill, but is
convinced that he is, when the Count pays him off. As
the Count (in disguise) and Rosina go over plans for her
escape, Bartolo overhears them and drives everyone from
the house. He vows to marry Rosina that evening and
rushes to get a notary to draw up the marriage contract.
Bartolo also convinces Rosina that Lindoro is just a
failed servant of the Count’s, certainly not worthy of
Scene 2: Later that evening, the
Count and Figaro sneak a ladder into Bartolo’s house.
The Count shows Rosina his true identity and their love
is reconciled. When Figaro sees people coming, the three
try to escape out the window, but the ladder has been
removed. Basilio arrives with a notary to marry Rosina
and Bartolo. The Count bribes Basilio to order the
notary to quickly perform his marriage to Rosina or
receive two bullets in the head. When Bartolo arrives
with the police, Rosina and Count Almaviva have already
been married. The count consoles the doctor by granting
him Rosina’s dowry. Our story ends in jubilant
celebration of the new union – thanks to the cleverness
and wit of our favorite Barber…Figaro.
Rimrock Opera event at cafe was special
Posted: Wednesday, September 23, 2009 12:00 am
On a recent Sunday evening I dined with friends to songs and
arias at Cafe Italia on Montana Avenue. Doug Nagel brought his
Rimrock Opera cast of singers to the cafe for a preview of the
upcoming "Barber of Seville" Sept. 26-27, and the spring
production of "La Boheme."
Hearing these wonderful voices
ringing out in the intimacy of a cafe was a joyful and special
occasion. World cities have nothing on us here in Billings.
Thanks to Doug Nagel and the singers of the Rimrock Opera. I
hope this Cafe Italia opera evening becomes a tradition.
Familiarity of ‘Barber of Seville’ makes Rimrock Opera’s latest
production accessible to casual fan
By JACI WEBB Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Friday,
September 25, 2009 12:15 am
Masterful music paired with slapstick comedy -
those elements combine to make the opera "The Barber of
Seville'' a favorite among both performers and audiences.
Think of a Bugs Bunny cartoon set to a stellar score.
Conductor Andy Anderson praised the comedic "Barber'' as
composer Gioacchino Rossini's masterpiece. Anderson will help
Rimrock Opera Company stage the two-act opera this weekend at
the Alberta Bair Theater. Performances are Saturday night and
"The whole score is brilliant,''
Anderson said. "The overture is one of the most familiar works
in opera. The arias are stunning, but the ensembles are just
Anderson, artistic director of the Mobile
Opera in Alabama, has worked with the ROC on previous operas,
including "The Girl of the Golden West'' and "La Boheme.'' He
and Rimrock general director Doug Nagel have teamed up on four
operas over the years.
The challenge in this piece is to keep
it funny, but not allow it to cross over to schlock, said Nagel,
who is stage director and producer of this staging of "Barber.''
"Comedy is about timing,'' Nagel said. "In place of
dialogue, this opera has speaking in pitch. So much of it is
recitatives where you have to hit the music and vocals after the
letter falls. It really adds to the humor, but it's difficult to
get it right.''
The opera is based on a trilogy of plays
written by Beaumarchais. Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro'' was also
based on the Beaumarchais works. "The Barber of Seville'' tells
the story of a young nobleman Almaviva (tenor Sean T. Miller)
who wins his lover Rosina (soprano Lisa Lombardy) from her
lecherous guardian Dr. Bartolo (Robert Aaron Taylor). To do
this, Almaviva enlists the help of his friend, the barber Figaro
(baritone Chris Johnson). "Barber'' was first staged in 1816 in
Rome and became the first Italian opera performed in the U.S.,
premiering in New York in 1825.
If you've never seen an
opera, "Barber of Seville'' is a great first taste because the
music is familiar and this production will be sung in English,
"Everybody has seen the Bugs Bunny
cartoon, 'The Bunny of Seville,' so the music will sound quite
familiar. As an artistic director, I always say, 'If we can get
them in the door with one opera, they'll come back.'''
title role, Johnson, a Billings Senior High graduate, said he
channels his inner "goofball.'' Johnson recently finished his
master's degree in music from Indiana University's Jacobs
School. He has performed in ROC productions before, including
"The Old Maid and the Thief.''
"My character, Figaro, is
the matchmaker, but he's just a big goofball who comes up with
Johnson, who earned his bachelor's degree in
music from Montana State University where he performed in his
first opera, is performing alongside his first vocal coach,
Lombardy. Both said they were initially nervous about singing on
stage together; the student trying to impress just as much as
"I just want to make sure I'm doing
everything she told me to do,'' Johnson said.
"I don't tell my students that they should come see me. I would
never expect that of them, but many do come to watch,'' said
Lombardy, who also plays violin in the orchestra pit and with
the Billings Symphony Orchestra when she's not singing.
Because "Barber of Seville'' will be sung in English with super
titles projected above the stage, Johnson said it was easier to
memorize the lyrics, but making them fit into the score is the
"Italian has very pure vowels. So we need to have
the diction so the English is understood,'' Johnson said.
College students find ‘Seville’ opera funny
JACI WEBB Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Friday,
September 25, 2009 10:10 pm
A group of Rocky Mountain College music students let loose
Thursday, doubling over in laughter, when they heard the
familiar melody of a Bugs Bunny cartoon at the Rimrock Opera
Company's dress rehearsal of "Barber of Seville."
was just the overture. General director Doug Nagel had already
given his permission to the 30 or so people taking in the free
presentation at the Alberta Bair Theater that it's OK to laugh
at the opera, even if it was written by one of the greatest
composers ever, Gioacchino Rossini.
students took in the performance as part of the course
requirement for their introductory music class, taught by Tony
Hammond. Many of them were first-timers to the opera, including
Bryce Thompson, an aeronautical science major who stayed for the
entire three-hour dress rehearsal Thursday so he could see how
"I like it," Thompson said. "The music is good
and it's interesting. When I was growing up we went to a musical
every year at Medora. So I'm used to musical theater."
Katie Holland, another Rocky student, said her favorite scenes
included the full-cast numbers where vocalists were all singing
different parts but somehow managed to stay in tune. "I like
that the music is familiar and that the quality of the show is
so high," Holland said.
Most of Act 1 sets up the chaotic
comedy in the second act. By the time Count Almaviva (Sean T.
Miller) shows up posing as a drunken soldier raring for a fight,
we already know that the lecherous Dr. Bartolo (Robert Aaron
Taylor) is trying to wed the beautiful young heiress Rosina
(Billings native Lisa Lombardy). As Almaviva stumbles around the
stage, half the time with a drawn sword while he slaughters
Bartolo's name, spitting out "Buffalo" instead, he's singing a
staccato duet with his nemesis Bartolo. Staggering and
posturing, slurring and enunciating, Miller puts on quite the
show, making it all look so simple. But while he's playing a
drunk who can't stand up straight, he nails every musical note
on cue that the orchestra dishes out.
It's all about the
pacing, and when the arias split hairs with a bit of silly
chirping, the agile orchestra, under Andy Anderson's capable
hand, is right there driving the bus.
The sets, on loan
from the Utah Opera Company, place you smartly in
pre-revolutionary France when it was shocking to see the
servants outwitting the nobility. Of course, we are all rooting
for the wily barber Figaro, played with great physical and vocal
prowess by Billings native Chris Johnson.
how money makes me think," he confides in Act 1.
plans get bolder by the scene as he tries to help Almaviva win
Rosina's heart. Turns out, Rosina is as scheming as Figaro is,
and she makes a game out of outsmarting Bartolo. Lombardy
embraces this silly role, elevating the production with her
gorgeous soprano vocals. Bass Dennis Rupp, a frequent performer
with the ROC, is hysterical as her singing coach Basilio, even
if his long croocked nose is a bit distracting.
familiar music, English lyrics, and comedic plot are all
conspirators to bring back some of Thursday's audience for
"I've seen 'Marriage of Figaro' and this one
is much easier to follow,'' said Katie Thompson, a Montana State
University Billings criminal just student. "It was just fun."
JAMES WOODCOCK/Gazette Staff
Rimrock Opera General Director
Douglas Nagel, left, discusses details of “The Barber of
Seville” with Mobile Opera Artistic Director Andy Anderson.
Lisa Lombardy, in the role of Rosina,
listens while being serenaded by Sean T. Miller, as Count
Almaviva, accompanied on the guitar by Chris Johnson, as Figaro,
in Rimrock Opera’s staging of “The Barber of Seville.”
Lisa Lombardy, as Rosina, shares a
loving moment with Sean T. Miller, as Count Almaviva, in the
Rimrock Opera Company production of “The Barber of Seville.”
Rossini’s famed opera will be performed Saturday and Sunday at
the Alberta Bair Theater.
JAMES WOODCOCK/Gazette Staff
Lisa Lombardy, Rosina, composes
a love letter to The Count.
Watching opera even better than expected
Gazette News Service | Posted: Tuesday, October 6,
2009 12:00 am
I thought I knew about opera - studied it as part of my music
education, listened to arias, read librettos. Then I saw Rimrock
Opera's production of Rossini's "The Barber of Seville." What a
What I knew prior to seeing the live performance
was just a shadow of the real thing. Rimrock Opera presented
great vocals, accompanied by a live orchestra, and lots of
laughs, something that we all can use right now. Bravos for a
great job by both the cast and Doug Nagel, general director of
Rimrock Opera, and both artistic director and producer for
"La Boheme," coming April 24-25, 2010, is already
on my calendar.
Students delighted by Rimrock Opera
Posted: Sunday, October 4, 2009 12:00 am
On Sept. 27, I had the rare privilege of traveling with a group
of nearly 40 students to see "The Barber of Seville" by the
Rimrock Opera Company. Many of these students had never seen an
opera before - and they all came away delighted at the
experience. "Barber" was the most accessible and lively opera we
have seen since the group started attending several years ago.
Cultural experiences such as the ones provided by the Rimrock
Opera Company are invaluable to our students. Thanks to ROC, we
in Colstrip are seeing the birth of a new generation of opera
Rimrock Opera Company. All rights