When Clarence Frazer stepped on stage for the opening night of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville last week, it was an experience he describes as unbelievable.
“The audience was so supportive, so much energy. It was just a lot of fun to be on stage,” said Frazer, who performs the title character of Figaro.
Produced by Pacific Opera Victoria (POV), The Barber of Seville is a story that many audiences will likely find familiar. Even Looney Tunes took a stab at it with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in the spoof, The Rabbit of Seville.
Performed in Italian with English surtitles, the opera focuses on Count Almaviva and Rosina who’ve fallen in love and won’t have anything stop them from getting married. Almaviva follows Rosina to Seville, where he runs into his former servant Figaro, who is now a barber with a booming business.
Almaviva hires Figaro to help him rescue Rosina from the clutches of her crotchety old guardian, Dr. Bartolo, who has eyes on her himself. The enterprising trio devise an arsenal of tricks to outwit Bartolo, proving that the road to true love is paved with theft, lies, bribery, brawling and wicked comedy.
This marks the second time Frazer has stepped into the shoes of Figaro. It’s a character he describes as witty, charismatic, persuasive and very good at getting what he wants.
“He’s just an all around good guy and he’s a lot of fun…he’s just a joyous soul,” said Frazer, noting Figaro is a jack-of-all-trades around his town. “It’s always nice to play a baritone role who’s not evil and doesn’t get his heart broken and he’s not playing an old guy.”
Growing up outside of Toronto, Frazer started singing at a young age, but he didn’t pursue a professional career until he went to university. Due to the natural classical sound of his voice, Frazer said opera is something that chose him and one that takes many years of training to develop a healthy technique.
During the course of The Barber of Seville, Frazer will sing in Italian for about an hour and 15 minutes. He’ll step into the role of Figaro again in June, this time with the Saskatoon Opera.
“I love being able to play somebody else for a while. It’s like adult dress up,” said Frazer, who’s making his debut with the POV.
“We always have incredible audiences that are there to support you and are there to see you. I think the beauty is telling our story onstage, whatever the opera is and hoping that we somehow change or affect people in the audience in some way.”
Antonio Figueroa and Sylvia Szadovski return as Count Almaviva and Rosina. One of Canada’s most celebrated directors and playwrights, Morris Panych is back in Victoria to direct the performance.
The Barber of Seville runs until Feb. 21 at the Royal Theatre.