Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at Santa Fe Opera

Beaumarchais "Crazy Day" is a Fabulous Festival of Singing

Review: THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at Santa Fe Opera On August 3, 2021, Santa Fe Opera presented its long expected presentation of W. A. Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. It was presented in the theater according to New Mexico COVID regulations. Outside in the parking lot, it was simulcast to a smaller audience of those who preferred to watch from their cars. My companion and I were part of the latter group and enjoyed snacks in the car as we watched with family groups on either side of us.

Just before performance time, the sky darkened and rain clouds hid the mountains as lightening streaked the sky. Five minutes later, there was a huge rainbow that bridged the parking lot! That's New Mexico in summer.
The singing in this performance made it one of the best Figaros I've seen in many years. Despite singing recitative, vocal runs, and high notes with silvery tones for three and a half hours, Ying Fang as Susanna never sounded the least bit tired. Her character was a 20th century woman with dreams of equality. At the behest of conductor Harry Bicket, she and all the other leading artists decorated the repeats in their arias.

Although COVID and visa regulations made it impossible for Laurent Pelly to come to Santa Fe, Laurie Feldman directed his concept of the Beaumarchais crazyay as hours and interconnecting wheels that might turn an imaginary clock lay on the sides of the turntable stage. Pelly's and Jean-Jacques Delmotte's form-fitting costumes set the time as mid-twentieth-century with dress lengths often at mid-calf. Men were often outfitted for the out-of-doors.

Chantal Thomas's scenic design was mainly architecture with little attention to interiors. Duane Schuler's lighting often showed characters' shadows as if to emphasize their presence. As she does every summer, Choral Director Susanne Sheston made a harmonious group of the many strong and lyric-voiced soloists accepted as apprentices for 2021.

Nicholas Brownlee's Figaro was a happy-go-lucky servant who thought he was his master's equal in rank, physical strength and intelligence. He even picked up several members of the cast to prove it. Vocally, he started off slowly and had some trouble keeping time with Bicket's lively pace. As he created his character, however, he sang with more clarity.

Vanessa Vasquez was his obviously-pregnant wife. She sang with the luscious, creamy tones we are accustomed to hear from her and the Countess's loving personality radiated throughout the show. It is she who forgives the count at the end of the opera when all of the doings of Beaumarchais' crazy day end in a happy chorus.

Samuel Dale Johnson was a rather frenetic Count with an anger problem. He even carried a gun at one point, but nevertheless sang with bronzed tones. Patrick Carfizzi's Dr. Bartolo, the lawyer, sang with dark sounds and looked like a mafioso who was more interested in money than justice. In the end, however, Bartolo accepted Figaro as his son.

Megan Marino was a boyish Cherubino who took her character's masculinity seriously. She sang with sweet lyric tones and used a good bit of chest voice. Susanne Mentzer, once a fine Cherubino, was a nosy, mischievous Marcellina who never got to sing her aria. Marcellina's aria "Il capro e la capretta" ("The Billygoat and the Nannygoat") observes that male and female beasts get along with each other better than humans do. The aria equalizes the influence of women and men in this opera.

Brenton Ryan was an amusing and nosy Don Basilio, while Apprentice Thomas Ciluffo was an officious Don Curzio. Apprentice Cheyanne Coss was a giggling, boy-chasing Barbarina with charming voice and personality. James Cresswell was appropriately slovenly as the drunken Antonio.

This is a first class performance of an opera seldom this well done. Internationally renowned as an opera and concert conductor of distinction, Harry Bicket is especially noted for his interpretation of baroque and classical repertoire. This performance shows American audiences why. This time Bicket did not play the recitatives, however. They were most efficiently done by Glen Lewis. If you can get to Santa Fe, you can see The Marriage of Figaro in the theater or in your car on certain nights. Enjoy.

Photo of Yin Fang at opening of opera by Curtis Brown.




From This Author - Maria Nockin

Maria Nockin worked at the Metropolitan Opera in New York while attending  Fordham University across the street from Lincoln Center. At the same time, she studied voice, piano, and violin... (read more about this author)


BWW Review: AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON WITH RAEHANN BRYCE-DAVIS at Home Computer ScreensBWW Review: AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON WITH RAEHANN BRYCE-DAVIS at Home Computer Screens
November 9, 2021

Bryce Davis and Cilliers opened their recital program with Richard Strauss' and John Henry Mackay's uplifting 'Heimliche Aufforderung' ('The Secret Invitation'). This joyous, celebratory composition was the composer's gift to his bride on their wedding day. Bryce-Davis sang it with exquisite vocal colors. Next was Robert Schumann 'Die Lotosblume' ('The Lotus Flower') in which the poet Heinrich Heine described the beauty of the love between the flower and the moon. Bryce-Davis showed the lyric tones of her voice as she told of this delicate love.

ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR Begins November 2 on Home Computer ScreensONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR Begins November 2 on Home Computer Screens
November 4, 2021

This evening our online show is Los Angeles Opera’s La Traviata from 2006 with: Renée Fleming, Rolando Villazón, Renato Bruson, Suzanna Guzmán, Anna Akhimova, Daniel Montenegro, Philip Kraus, James Creswell, Sal Malaki, and Mark Kelley. James Conlon conducts the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra. The stage director is Marta Domingo. Brian Large directs it for TV.

BWW Review: AZ OPERA'S FILM, THE COPPER QUEEN at Home Computer ScreensBWW Review: AZ OPERA'S FILM, THE COPPER QUEEN at Home Computer Screens
October 31, 2021

The Copper Queen is a modern opera by Clint Borzoni and John de los Santos that tells of times past in Bisbee, Arizona. It won an Arizona Opera competition that insured its place onstage. Because of the pandemic and the fact that currently audience size is quite limited, The Copper Queen became a film that can be experienced online. 

BWW Review: LOS ANGELES OPERA'S TANNHÄUSER at Home Computer ScreensBWW Review: LOS ANGELES OPERA'S TANNHÄUSER at Home Computer Screens
October 25, 2021

On October  24, 2021, Los Angeles Opera presented Wagner’s Tannhäuser live online for patrons who cannot get to the theater at this time. Director Louise Muller revived the Ian Judge production of the opera’s Dresden version. A second live streamed performance will be available from LA Opera on October 27. 

BWW Review: THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at Home Computer ScreensBWW Review: THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at Home Computer Screens
October 24, 2021

On October 22, 2021, Opera Philadelphia began streaming its rendition of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. This staging is a judiciously cut two-hour-and-forty-eight-minute production by Opera Philadelphia, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, San Diego Opera, and Palm Beach Opera. Each company is choosing its own conductor and cast.