Rossini Maid Me Do It – Berta’s Backstairs Love Affair with Rossini

With only two performances (November 18 and 19) remaining of Petite Opera’s production of Barber of SevilleEmily Cox, who plays Berta in the production discussed her take on the character of Berta, Berta’s love affair with Rossini in this particular production, and working with Petite Opera.

Emily Cox, who portrays Berta in Petite Opera’s Barber of Seville
What do you like about the character of Berta:
I love that in this interpretation she is not an old maid or a drunk, which is how it is played every time I see it. She is really stalwart loyal woman who believes she is doing the right thing by standing by Doctor Bartolo.

Berta (Emily Cox) tries to calm Doctor Bartolo (Ivo Suarez)
Does it bother Berta that Doctor Bartolo keeps asking her to pick up and move the household at a moment’s notice to escape Count Almaviva?
No. She is loyal to a fault. I like that she is a middle-aged woman that is not happy where she’s at, but not sure how to get un-stuck. In our version, Rossini guides her along, and she gets a happy ending too.

What about her appeals and speaks to the audience?
She is very relatable. At every point in a person’s life you put your trust in someone with whom you should not have. We all find out a little too late that we have helped the wrong person. Berta really believes that Doctor Bartolo wanted to marry Rosina and take of her, and she has just started to realize that Bartolo is really all about the money.

What does Berta think about this Count Almaviva business? When does she suspect

Berta (Emily Cox, right) noses her way into
Rosina’s (Liana Gineitis, left) business


She starts to suspect when he comes to the house in disguise as the piano teacher. By the time we meet Almaviva disguised as a drunken soldier, she is absolutely in the know. She is a lot smarter than anyone thinks. Spending that much time watching Rosina, of course she would totally know what was happening.

What does Berta think of Figaro?
Berta doesn’t like him at all. He represents everything she doesn’t like in a man — self-righteous, fast-talking, self-serving. Part of the reason she remains so faithful to Bartolo is because she uses Figaro as a direct foil.

How are you distinguishing your Berta of early 1800s from the woman you are in the 21st century?
In 2017, I move with my pelvis; to dive back into the 1800s, I must slow my gestures, stand up straighter, and take more time and consideration in the things I do.

How old are you playing her?
I’m playing her in her 30’s, which then, unfortunately, would have been termed “an old-maid”. 

What do you think about this version (dialogue vs. recitative)?
I love it. It streamlines the entire story, and makes the characters more believable but removes some element of reality. We’re all characters in a storybook… it’s more believable both from the perspective of action and reaction.  We must be careful with Rossini doesn’t come across campy; but I believe we have just the right balance of humor and suspension of disbelief to actually make it believable. 

Tell me about Berta’s relationship with Rossini in this adaptation?
Berta (Emily Cox) takes a rare opportunity to seduce
Rossini (Edward Kuffert), the composer,
who creates the production before the eyes of the audience.

I feel she embodies the entire household. She can feel something isn’t quite right as soon as Rossini enters the scene as the omniscient figure. Berta warms to Rossini because he shows genuine affection, even for the flawed characters, such as Berta herself. She and Rossini are the same in their values in that they see the best in everyone. Rossini genuinely treasures Berta; I don’t think she’s ever had that from anyone before. And of course, the love affair is quite unexpected!

What do you think about working Petite Opera?
I love it… I’ve been tracking the company on social media. I intentionally audition for companies and directors that produce high-quality productions in which I am interested and value. If I want to write my own show, I can. If I work from someone, I do so. That’s why came to Petite Opera. 
I loved their Assassins, the fact that we were an opera company that understands the crossover potential. 

How did you become familiar with Petite Opera?
I knew about the Magic Flute auditions a few years ago, and had friends who were in the cast. I saw it, and loved it. Then, I auditioned for Petite Opera’s production of Assassins, which was such a great process and experience. I love the productions they select, the production value they create, and the performers and artistic staff they are attracting and working with.

How would you describe this opera, concisely, to someone who has never seen it?  In short, why should they come see Petite Opera’s production?
Guy meets girl; guy wants girl, but girl is being held captive by old guy who wants girls’ money.
Guy hires known varmint to come and steal her away. Mischief and mayhem ensues and in the end, most end up happy. Oh, and by the way, the composer himself is in it.  Another reason: Come see the show, and see me play with a 15-foot boa!

Tickets are $27 for Adults (ages 18-61)
$25 for Seniors (age 62 and up)
$15 for Students (K through College, with ID)
$5 for Children ages 5 and under

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Mary Wilson House Beyer Auditorium
part of St. Mary’s Episcopal church campus
306 S Prospect Avenue (at Crescent Ave)
Park Ridge, IL 60068