Grand opera at its most intimate, OnSite Opera’s Barber of Seville is a stunningly fresh take on an often-stale art form.
- Opera in a beautiful NYC mansion courtyard and library. Epic.
- Fantastic acting well-suited to these levels of intimacy. Subtle changes in facial expression sold the character beats just as well as the operatic notes. Also very cool to have opera singers come right up to the audience and direct lines at them/touch them/etc.
- Gorgeous singing. With that proximity to the performers, I felt their voices resonating in my very soul.
- Very cool lighting effects in the library where all the objects and people were able to swell with color in a way unlike anything I’ve seen in a theater.
- Andrew Wilkowske as Figaro was a fantastic guitar player and endlessly charismatic.
- While entirely an act of god, it was very hot both in the courtyard and in the library. Thankfully the lights were LED which meant they didn’t add any heat to the room. And bonus points to OSO for giving us all water before the show.
- Uncomfortable seats, but even that can be argued as a positive because it kept everyone present in the moment.
- On the writing side: while I certainly appreciate the universality of this farce, I found Figaro to be far and away the most interesting character (and most hilarious), so his absence was very much felt during the second half of the show.
Tales from before and after show:
Full disclosure: I was given two comp tickets to this show through one of the producers, whom I met recently at the Opera America conference in Washington DC. OnSite Opera is interested in pursuing new technologies, so naturally my passion for all things theater and all things technology (particularly virtual reality) meant that we hit it off. There’s a good chance I’ll take part in one of their future productions, which is thrilling!
Also, I was supposed to go with my wife, but she had to work. Instead I ended up going with a friend of a friend who’s studying acting at The New School. She grew up in Romania and enjoyed trying to translate the Italian (which is ever-so-slightly similar). Also interesting coincidence: the opera is a partnership with the New School’s music department, which is soon to merge with the acting department to create the School of Performing Arts.
The most fun I’ve had in the theater in a long time. Period.
- Straightforward, snappy, hour-long storyline expertly executed with a game-for-anything cast and crew.
- Projections were a well-incorporated absolute joy to look at. A perfect blend of 8-bit video games with a retro-comic book overlay.
- Not only were the projections a blast to look at, but they had such fine-details as becoming a genuine audience-interactive game at one point, as well as featuring moving mouths for the 8-bit versions of the characters that were talking in real life.
- Music was catchy, well-sung, and another wonderfully-retro device. I never thought I’d end up with a chorus line stuck in my head with the lyrics ‘The nearest chemo center in a fifty-mile radius!’
- Amazingly, the very well-established through-line of ‘modify a plant virus to fight cancer cells’ is based on real science being put out by Nicole F. Steinmetz, Ph D.
- The Nanoman as a character was gloriously poorly-acted, and I was rooting for him hard to work up the courage to take on the evil macro-phages. I also loved his costume.
- Dr. X’s German accent, while genuinely hilarious, was inconsistent enough to be distracting at times.
- Venue was not ideal– a bar doesn’t real feel like a conference center, and because the production is so short and so sharp, it’s better if drink orders are not being taken and distracting from the show.
Tales from Backstage:
I was here on invitation from someone I met when I gave my VR lecture at the Microsoft building. After establishing that we both loved theater but often didn’t have anyone to go with, we became theater buddies! Her friend from San Francisco, Danielle was flown in to do the show.
Most every aspect of the production was created (and even performed) by Krista Knight and Barry Brinegar, a writing partnership calling themselves Knight and Brinegar. I will be following their work with interest for a very long time.
I was there on opening night and found Dr. X’s limp and need for a cane to be entirely convincing. Turns out Krista had fallen down in the subway that morning and actually needed the cane!