KOB intendant Barrie Kosky has studiously avoided bel canto since his 2012 arrival. Up until now, Kosky has played to his house’s strengths, leading his youthful and energetic troupe to great feats of vocal and theatrical daring (if not always excellence) across epoch-spanning Musiktheater where L’Orfeo one night could conceivably be followed by West Side Story the next.
The stakes with a work like Barbiere are not necessarily any higher, but they are different. And the KOB doesn’t usually have the voices to pull off Rossini, meaning that Russian stage and film director Kirill Serebrennikov’s production is far and away the main draw. When Almaviva and Rosina are not cyber-stalking each other on Facebook, they furiously trade iMessages (a very clever solution for all their brief stolen exchanges). Almaviva’s disguises run the gamut from pop culture (Conchita Würst) to world affairs (an ISIS fighter) and once his true identity is revealed, everyone wants a selfie with him.