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Figaro Protects his Bride from Sexual Harassment, and has fun doing it

Review: BOULDER OPERA THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at Home Computer Screens On Sunday afternoon March 7, 2021, The Boulder Opera Company of Colorado presented Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro to audiences in the theater and online. The Boulder company is tiny, but I thought it would be interesting to see what they could do. Stage Director Michael Travis Risner set the time in the present and provided doors, potted trees, a table with a side chair, an armchair, and a few props for his setting. It fit the list of bare necessities required by the story and allowed the cast to provide considerable amusement throughout Risner's production.

Although the production was minimal but adequate, the costumes did not distinguish the nobles from the peasants and in some cases did not keep characters from fading into the background. A bright red throw on the armchair helps hide Cherubino but later is of no assistance to the Countess when she perches on the edge of that chair wearing a similarly colored shawl. There were no projections, however, and lighting design was adequate to the situations.

Although Zeky Nadji's Figaro was not physically imposing, he was energetic and his voice was agile. This fresh-voiced Figaro delivered his first act aria, ("Non più andrai farfallone amoroso") ("You will go no more, amorous butterfly") in nuanced phrases, and the words seemed to have an edge that would have pleased the book's original author, Beaumarchais. In Figaro's cavatina "Se vuol ballare, Signore Contino" ("If you would like to dance, Little Mr. Count") his resentment of the Count's harassment of Susanna was evident in his diction, phrasing, and smoothness of tone. His was a most amusing portrayal of the barber who was becoming a social activist.

As Figaro and Susanna, Nadji and Sabrina Balsamo made a delightfully playful young couple. Balsamo imbued Susanna with a judicious mix of coquettry and sincere emotion. Armando Contreras was a dignified Count who relished his superiority over the rest of the household and showed occasional flashes of anger. His Act II aria, "Hai gia vinta la causa...Vedro mentr'io sospiro" ("I've won the cause...Should I see my servants happy while I'm sad?") mixed rage with disapointment, and resolve. Most impressive was his last scene discovery that he had chased his own wife.

Kyrie Laybourn was a restrained Countess who was amused by Cherubino's protestations. In her first aria "Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro" ("Love, give me a remedy,") she gave a rendition replete with emotion but occasionally lacking in supported tones. Her poignant second aria, "Dove sono, i bei momenti" ("Where are the beautiful moments?") was more secure, however. Kelly Riordan and Allen Adair were a credible couple as Marcellina and Dr. Bartolo, who sang with brusque tones appropriate to their characters.

Claire McCahan was a lively, boyish adolescent with rich lyric mezzo voice and a natural bent for comedy. She gave a satisfying performance of the short but difficult "Non so più cost son, cosa faccio " ("I don't know who I am, or what I'm doing") and followed it later with a lovely rendition of "Voi che sapete che cosa é amor" ("You who know what love is"). Cherubino might soon know a great deal more about love if he were to let the pert and purposeful Barbarina catch him. Anna Montgomery was a sweet Barbarina, who sang her aria, "L'ho perduta." ("I've lost it") with honeyed tones.

Pianist Maggie Hinchcliffe provided an uplifting undersurface for the singers. What made this performance worth seeing and hearing, however, was the way conductor Steven Aquiló Arbues led the opera's difficult large ensembles. His tempi were brisk and elegant. Best of all each artist sang every contrapuntal note exactly in place. Page after page of notes were performed to perfection, something that can be missing under even the best of circumstances. At the age of ten, Boulder Opera is still a brave young company and I hope they will put more music online soon.

Figaro, Zeki Nadji; Susanna, Sabrina Balsamo; Barbarina, Anna Montgomery; Basilio/Curzio, Santiago Gutierrez; Countess, Kyrie Laybourn; Antonio/Stage Director, Michael Travis Risner; Cherubino, Claire McCahan; Marcellina, Kelly Riordan; Bartolo, Allen Adair; Count, Armando Contreras; Conductor, Steven Aguiló Arbues; Piano, Maggie Hinchcliffe.

Photo courtesy of Boulder Opera Company

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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)

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