Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the New Met

January 12th, 2017

Soprano or mezzo-soprano? Rosina, the wily heroine of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, has been performed at the Met’s Lincoln Center home—and brilliantly—by both voice types. In its revival this season, soprano Pretty Yende sparkles as Rosina, as soprano Diana Damrau did when the current production had its premiere in 2006. In the years between, however, three mezzo-sopranos—Joyce DiDonato, Elīna Garanča, and Isabel Leonard—triumphed in the role. The first Rosina at the new Met, in 1968, was mezzo-soprano Teresa Berganza, followed by two very different mezzo powerhouses: Marilyn Horne (pictured, in a 1971 performance with Enrico Di Giuseppe as Count Almaviva, Fernando Corena as Dr. Bartolo, Giorgio Tozzi as Don Basilio, and Jean Kraft as Berta) and Frederica von Stade. Then the silvery soprano of Kathleen Battle won acclaim in the role, followed by mezzo-soprano Maria Ewing, and yet another soprano, Ruth Ann Swenson. Prior to the premiere of the current production, mezzo-sopranos ignited the coloratura fireworks, among them Suzanne Mentzer, Jennifer Larmore, and Vesselina Kasarova. Rossini did write the role for the mezzo-soprano range, but the music is easily transposed. Rosina has been irresistible to lyric sopranos at the Met, beginning with Marcella Sembrich in 1883. In fact, it was not until 1945 that Met audiences heard a mezzo-soprano in the role.