Bart is Bartlett Sher, the acclaimed Broadway director known most recently for The Light in the Piazza. He may only have directed opera once before (Levy's Mourning Becomes Electra in 2003), but he looked at ease in his first gig at the mighty Met, putting his star-studded cast through their paces while stagehands shuffled the doors that are an integral part of the staging around in the background. Tenor Juan Diego Fl‹rez (Count Almaviva), soprano Diana Damrau (Rosina), baritone Peter Mattei (Figaro) and bass John del Carlo (Doctor Bartolo) seemed like they were having fun as well.
The director, who says he wants a "lighter, fresher movement to the opera and to focus on the relationships" between the principal characters, demonstrated his keen theatrical eye as he coached Fl‹rez, wearing blue jeans and wielding a pouch of gold, in how to persuade Figaro to help him win Rosina.
Sher doesn't read music or speak Italian. But, as he explained in a discussion after the rehearsal, "the same rules apply in recitative and Shakespeare: you have to find the words and pull them out. I admire the singers' technical skills, which actors don't have in the same way. Singers have the ability to shape a word. With actors you have to help them sound right, but singers already have it. Singers are also more in touch with their bodies."
He was invited to direct the production (the Met's first new Barbiere in 25 years) as part of Gelb's plans to hire more theater directors for new stagings. Gelb explained that it's not for the Met to not tell talented directors what to do. "The perception is that their aesthetic will must be bent to the Met's aesthetic, but that's not the case."
Sher certainly got the thumbs up from his cast, who didn't seem to mind his lack of opera experience. As Mattei explained, "All directors are different, but as long as they have passion it's okay."