BWW Reviews: Austin Lyric Opera's MARRIAGE OF FIGARO is a Crowd-Pleasing Farce
The great Mozart once said, "Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius." Over 200 years after his death, we are still studying his works, a testament to the man's genius, and his operas about love, life, and betrayal capture our imagination and attention the most. Austin Lyric Opera's current production of The Marriage of Figaro clearly illustrates the brilliance and artistry of Mozart's music while poking fun at the hypocrisies of the upper class.
Under the direction of Chuck Hudson, the classic opera comes alive. Hudson smartly highlights the comedic moments of mistaken identities, crazy antics, and cross-dressing, all of which play to plenty of laughs. Still, in his hands the characters and the plot are never over-exaggerated. Hudson has a clear vision and an undeniable respect for Mozart's material, and as neurotic, foolish, and irrational as these characters are, Hudson has them under control.
Hudson also has an outstanding cast to work with. All ten principal performers are gifted singers, actors, and comedians. Jonathan Beyer brings his rich bass voice and a slightly sinister swagger to Count Almaviva, a skirt-chasing hypocrite. Tynan Davis is magnificent in the trouser role of Cherubino, the young man with a healthy sexual appetite who keeps getting into situations which put him in women's clothes. Davis's soprano is spectacular, and her ability for slapstick and physical comedy is stellar. As Figaro, Paolo Pecchioli brings the iconic character to life through his fantastic baratone voice and his wild, exaggerated facial expressions. His Figaro is a delightfully rubber-faced rogue with a penchant for mischief. But as fantastic as Pecchioli and the entire cast is, they are upstaged ever so slightly by the wonderful Jamie-Rose Guarrine as Figaro's fiancée, Susanna. The beautiful Guarrrine has an amazingly clear soprano voice and acting chops that are on par with her incredible set of pipes. Her Susanna is innocent but cunning, sarcastic, and witty, turning her into a heroine that we root for and laugh with.
And true to form for Austin Lyric Opera, the visual elements of The Marriage of Figaro parallel the quality of the performances. Boyd Ostoff's set design is large and vast yet somewhat contained as well, giving us the illusion of a massive palace while also giving the performers an intimate space for their hijinks. Susan Alred's costumes are divine period pieces, and Kathryn Eader's lighting design, particularly in the twilight and nighttime scenes of Act III and Act IV, is striking. When the performances, direction, and design are paired with the Austin Lyric Opera Orchestra under the direction of Richard Buckley, the end result is a perfect evening of entertainment.
Running time: 3 hours and 20 minutes, including one 20 minute intermission.
THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO plays The Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, TX. Performances are Saturday, February 2nd, 2013 at 7:30pm and Sunday, February 3rd, 2013 at 3pm. Tickets range from $21.50 - $143.50. For tickets and information, please visit www.austinlyricopera.org