On Friday, July 8, Sidney Outlaw takes on one of the greatest operatic roles for a bass-baritone in Opera Saratoga’s production of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” at Proctors.
“He’s one of my favorite opera characters and also one of the toughest,” Outlaw said. “I’m on stage for the first twenty-five minutes of the first act. I need to be locked up mentally to concentrate. There’s a lot of music. »
Outlaw makes his corporate debut.
Gioachino Rossini was only 24 when he wrote the opera, having already written more than 12 operas and most of them very successful. He was born in 1792 to musical parents and lived in Pesaro, Italy, before moving to Bologna and later to Naples, which was already considered the historic home of Italian opera. But already his skills had progressed to writing highly virtuosic passages and were beginning to employ extensive use of ensembles with particular use of the choir.
“Rossini wrote a whole lot of music and a lot of black notes,” Outlaw said with a laugh.
That means singers have to be very agile vocally to be able to sing lots of words to accompany the fast notes, he said. It helps that he learned to be comfortable singing in Italian early on when he was in school at the Juilliard School. His teacher, who was Italian, taught him to understand Italian humor in comedy and how it feels in a score and to be spontaneous.
“I learned to build on that,” he said.
Rossini based his opera on the first of a series of three comedies written by the 18th century playwright Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. The second of the pieces, “The Marriage of Figaro”, is the one that Mozart so brilliantly revived.
Rossini was commissioned to write two operas in 1816 for Duke Cesarini, who was the impresario of Rome’s Teatro Argentina. The first opera, “Torvaldo e Doliska”, was produced on December 26, 1815, and Rossini promised to have the first act of the second opera ready by January 20.
Together with the librettist Cesare Sterbini, they prepared what turned out to be “The Barber of Seville” on February 15, 1816.
During the first performance, the audience greeted the show with an uproar of cat calls, squeals and whistles. No one in the audience could hear the music except the musicians, including Rossini, who was at the piano. The second performance, however, was acclaimed and within a week began to achieve the popularity it has had since. Also for this second performance, it was discovered that the music for the overture had disappeared. Rossini was said to calmly substitute an overture he had used in two other of his operas and it was the one that lasted.
Despite all this history, for singers, it’s still a big challenge. And part of that comes from not knowing exactly what Rossini wanted.
“The opera is in a bel canto style and that’s settled,” Outlaw said. “But unlike Puccini, who tells us exactly what he wants in the score, Rossini does not. Some parameters are flexible in the style. But it is believed that Rossini’s intentions are to show off, to show off and to have a good night. There’s vocal acrobatics as if to put your best foot forward. As a singer, I know the rules and how to break them, like singing something fancy in safe settings.
A professional singer since 2007, including at least two productions of this opera, and with appearances around the world, at the Metropolitan Opera and a Grammy Award nomination, he is used to working with many singers.
“But it’s a great cast. They sing so, so well, and we merged,” he said.
Also, a big help is that the conductor, Dean Williamson, lives in Italy.
“He got some extra help, especially in styling,” Outlaw said.
A second performance is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 10.
“The Barber of Seville” from the opera Saratoga
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. on Friday July 8; 2 p.m. Sunday July 10
HOW MUCH: $45 – $112
MORE INFO: www.operasaratoga.org; 518 584-6018
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Schenectady