BWW Reviews: Hub Opera's THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO Features an Evening of Clever Characters and Beautiful Music
The Hagerstown Hub Opera production of one of Mozart's most famous operas, The Marriage of Figaro, is an enjoyable way to spend an evening, providing audiences with gorgeous music and vocals and very clever caricatures of the well known opera buffa stereotypes.
Directed by Phillip Collister and musically directed by Scott Crowne, The Marriage of Figaro (sometimes alternately titled The Day of Foolishness) portrays a single day in the court of the Count Almaviva where romantic complications ensue, often with great hilarity. Figaro, the count's personal valet, and Susanna, a maid, are engaged and their wedding is scheduled for that evening. So, of course, everything that can go wrong on the day of their wedding does. The Count is cheating on his devoted wife, the Countess, and wants Susanna to be his next conquest. The page boy, Cherubino, can't seem to stay away from any of the ladies at court or conversations he isn't supposed to overhear. And Figaro has the small matter of an outstanding loan to the lawyer, Dr. Bartalo and his partner, Marcellina (which he has no way of paying) before he is allowed to be married. It's all in a day's work for these clever characters.
Andrew Pardini as Figaro was extremely charismatic and a boundless ball of energy. He provided some of the best moments of the evening as he schemed and charmed his way out of every new conflict occurring in the story and had the audience on his side from the first moments of the opera.
Elizabeth Overmann was equally charming as Susanna, Figaro's fiance. She excelled in her moments of physical comedy and provided spot-on facial expressions and hilariously timed eyebrow raises. The first battle of wits between Susanna and Marcellina, played by Lenida Crawford, was absolutely hilarious, thanks to sharp comedic timing from both of the talented actresses.
Both Pardini and Overmann possessed powerful operatic voices and displayed beautifully warm and rich tones. Though the romantic chemistry between the couple seemed a little forced and stiff at the opening of the opera, they gradually warmed to each other as the evening progressed and displayed incredible charisma and comfort by the end.
An equally impressive pairing, with a much more difficult relationship to portray, was Mark Wanich and Laura Bass as the Count and Countess Almaviva. Wanich was a slick and intimidating Count, a manipulative nobleman the audience loved to hate, but was eventually forgiven by the finale. Bass displayed an absolutely ethereal voice, filled with beautiful grace and power, in stark contrast to her delicate, fragile noblewoman character.
Rounding out the romantic pairing is the raging hormonal teenage couple of page boy Cherubino (a pants role, excellently played by Caitlin Redding) and Barbarina (Katherine Sanford), the gardener's daughter. Redding was adorably awkward as the pubescent page boy whose attempts at romance cause most of the troubles for the main characters. Though slightly reserved and a little mechanical in her opening aria, Redding quickly embraced the quirky nuances of the hilarious role and soon had the audience roaring with laughter at the farcical moments. Sanford was perfectly coy and crafty as the wise-beyond-her-years gardener's daughter who quickly falls for Cherubino and displayed an effortlessly natural sexuality.
Though The Marrriage of Figaro is well known for the romantic pairings and plot revolving around the main couples, in the Hub Opera production, the character roles actually stole the spotlight from the main couples. Zain Shariff as Bartolo was one of the stand-out performers in the production. He was phenomenal at playing the ridiculously incompetent lawyer while effortlessly managing challenging patter sections of music. He displayed equally impressive instincts at exactly the right moments of when to draw focus and when to give focus to other characters and displayed a naturally impressive yet commanding stage presence.
In his dual role of Basilio/Curzio, Andrew Rosenfeld was perhaps the most enjoyable and perfectly cast element of the entire production. Rosenfeld was fabulously flamboyant as music teacher Basilio and hilarious in his brief role as stuttering judge Don Curzio. In an opera filled with fabulous singers and performers, Rosenfeld immediately diverted all the attention with every perfectly timed comedic entrance. Jeffrey Tarr also deserves special mention for his amusing cameo role as drunken gardener Antonio. His over-the-top style was perfect for the role and he turned a normally forgotten brief role into a memorable and enjoyable character.
The opera employed a very enjoyable ensemble in various roles, comprised of Tamia Branch, Savannah Brown, Julia Dorfman, Ethan Goodmansen, Madeline Harmon, Amanda Harrast, Krista Hastings, Josiah Hixon, Derrick Johnson, Hayley Lowry, Genesis Medina, Liam Nystrum, Naiya Pallard, Andrew Payne, Hannah Pickerall, Aaron Powell, Andrew Sandeen, Alyssa Selin, Katie Snyder and Emily Thompson.
The Marriage of Figaro also featured many unique and enjoyable staging moments. Most deserving of special mention was the clever and creative staging for Figaro's Act I aria "Non piu andrai", which involved turning ordinary bedroom and household objects into battlefield trenches and war time objects as Figaro explains to young page boy Cherubino what to expect in life as a soldier. The tableux at the end of Act III featuring all of the main couples was also gorgeous. The opera featured delightful costumes and a very detailed and intricate set for each act.
The Marriage of Figaro will continue on May 31 at 7:30 PM and June 1 at 3:00 PM. All performances occur in the Kepler Center Theater on the campus of Hagerstown Community College in Hagerstown, MD. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. Tickets are available online or at the box office. For more information about upcoming performances, please visit http://www.huboperaensemble.org/
Photo Credit: Perk Hull Design/Hagerstown Hub Opera