Opera Lafayette’s “Barbiere di Siviglia” on Saturday was a contrast in every regard except length and, possibly, unfamiliarity: This was not the well-known version of the opera by Rossini, but one written by Giovanni Paisiello 32 years earlier. Paisiello’s “Barber” anticipates Rossini’s in many ways, with sprightly tunes, lots of duets and ensembles and a closely parallel plot. Paisiello’s opera, like Rossini’s, has a “La calunnia” aria for Don Basilio; it has the count masquerade first as a military officer and then as a music teacher singing “Pace, gioia” in an assumed falsetto; and it even has a storm scene, which the director, Nick Olcott, mimed just as you’ve seen it done so often in productions of the Rossini opera, by having the actors cross the stage struggling with open umbrellas.
Opera Lafayette is riding high this season. As a far more established cousin to Urban Arias, with 17 years of experience under its belt, it’s been able to work out the kinks and start to prove itself on a bigger stage. It’s made an impressive series of CDs of little-known Baroque operas, and this year made its international debut in Versailles with Monsigny’s “Le roi et le fermier,” the kind of little-known rediscovery for which it’s become known. The audience Saturday night exuded the upbeat energy of people who were having fun. (The final performance was Sunday afternoon.)