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barber of seville

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 casual Fan

Dress Rehearsal Photos



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James Woodcock Photographs

‘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 professional colleagues.

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 delivery.
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 the stage.

Cast and Crew:

Douglas Nagel, producer and director
Andy Anderson, conductor
Lisa Lombardy, Rosina
Chris Johnson, Figaro
Sean T. Miller, Count Almaviva
Robert Aaron Taylor, Dr. Bartolo
Dennis Rupp, Basilio
Cara Jovanovich, Berta
Daren Small, Fiorello
Chris Sheppard, Chorus Master
Sandi Rabas, Staff Pianist
Angie Stidham, Wig/Make-up Designer
Alex Heyneman, Lighting Designer
Richelle Sitton, Orchestra manager
Sets from Utah Festival Opera
Costumes from Westendorf Costume Emporium
Wigs from Theatrical Hairgoods


Foreword: 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.

Act I 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 shelter.

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 her.


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.
Joanna Giesek

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 Sunday afternoon.

"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 amazing.''

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, Anderson said.

"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.'''
In the 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 this scheme.''
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 the teacher.

"I just want to make sure I'm doing everything she told me to do,'' Johnson said.
Lombardy added, "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 test.

"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."
And that 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.

Fifteen Rocky 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 it ends.

"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.

"It's wonderful how money makes me think," he confides in Act 1.

Figaro's 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.

The familiar music, English lyrics, and comedic plot are all conspirators to bring back some of Thursday's audience for another opera.
"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."

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 treat!

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 "Barber."
"La Boheme," coming April 24-25, 2010, is already on my calendar.
Sharie Pyke

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 fans.
Kate Bertin


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