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A Bulgarian mezzo-soprano dazzles them at the Met

The Associated Press
Saturday April 13, 2002

NEW YORK — The third time was the charm for Metropolitan Opera audiences who have been waiting for a chance to hear Vesselina Kasarova. 

The Bulgarian mezzo-soprano, who had canceled two previously scheduled debuts, lived up to her reputation Thursday night as an artist to be reckoned with. Stepping into the Met’s well-worn John Cox production of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” Kasarova managed to bring something fresh and memorable to the familiar role of the heroine, Rosina. 

As the perky young ward who defies her guardian by marrying Count Almaviva, Kasarova was all sparkling merriment on the surface — but she clearly conveyed the “whim of iron” that lies beneath. 

It helps that she is blessed with a distinctive voice that sounds dusky in the lower register, velvety in the mid-range and still has plenty of power for the high C’s. And her ease in coloratura passages is so great that one never has the sense she is working hard to get through the intricate trills and runs. To the contrary, she uses the ornamentation to convey a sense of Rosina’s playfulness. 

As the amorous Count, Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez repeated the show-stopping performance with which he debuted earlier in the year. He is a true Rossini tenor, with all that implies, both good and bad: a slightly nasal, constricted tone, but an awesome dexterity throughout a wide range. 

Baritone Earle Patriarco made a genial figure as the resourceful go-between, Figaro, and bass Paul Plishka savored every moment as the pompous guardian, Dr. Bartolo. Conductor Yves Abel kept the orchestra bubbling along.