Review: THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at Home Computer Screens

A Dazzling Performance of Da Ponte and Mozart's Gem

By: Oct. 24, 2021
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Review: THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at Home Computer Screens

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.

Stage director Stephen Lawless moved his characters about Leslie Travers' many-doored set which gave the impression of the surfeit of rooms in a large manor house. Usually, there is a chair and a throw in the first scene. Here, there was only a bed, making the plot more sexually overt than expected.

Travers' set and costumes placed the action directly in author Caron de Beaumarchais' original time period. Librettist Lorenzo da Ponte's depiction of sexual innuendo and harassment, however, is just as true today as it was at the opera's premiere in 1786, and Susanna's plight resembles today's news.

Beaumarchais' original play pits a street-smart servant, Figaro, against his tutored noble boss, Count Almaviva, and proves that times are changing.

Lighting Designer Thomas Hase included some interesting shadow play, but it resulted in unwanted dark spots on stage. Altogether, Lawless and his colleagues presented a humorous, sexy, and emotionally satisfying production of Mozart and Da Ponte's immense musical treasure.

As Figaro, Brandon Cedel is a robust character with a stentorian sound that gives him power over his noble boss. The role of his fiancee, Susanna, is one of the longest parts in opera, but soprano Ying Fang carries it off with her fluent, seemingly easy vocalism. I expect we will hear a great deal more tastefully decorated Mozart from this hugely talented young artist.

As the Count, John Chest was a most convincing playboy who, of course, expected fidelity from his wife. Only at the very end of the opera did he realize that he owed his Countess, sung by Layla Claire, an apology. Claire's melancholy-sweet arias, "Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro" ("Love, offer to restore") and "Dove sono i bei momenti" ("Where are the beautiful moments?") highlighted acts two and three. Claire and Fang have gorgeous soprano voices and the vocal blending in their duet was sheer magic. Fang's last act aria "Deh vieni, non tardar" ("Oh come, don't delay") showed her continued ability to enchant the audience in this long role.

Chest's acting was rock solid but his voice was occasionally covered by the orchestra. As Cherubino, Cecelia Hall was an energetic teenager with the gymnastic ability to jump from a high window. Her smooth lyric tones told of a romantic young man in the making. Bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi was a bombastic Dr. Bartolo whose lowest notes could have been stronger. Lucy Schaufer was an ebullient Marcellina even though her aria was cut.

As Don Basilio, tenor Jason Ferrante was a musicianly busybody but as Don Curzio he was an almost catatonic octogenarian in an eighteenth century wheelchair. Soprano Ashley Milanese as Barbarina and bass-baritone Thomas Shivone as her father, Antonio the gardener, were lively members of the cast whose actions added much to the ensemble.

All of these singers, together with their sounds and actions, contributed to a fine performance accompanied by Corrado Rovaris's forward moving orchestra. Any reader who has not already purchased a season pass for $99, will want to rent The Marriage of Figaro as an individual selection on the Opera Philadelphia Channel and watch the opera with loved ones from the comfort of home.

Photos of Ying Fang as Susanna as well as Layla Claire as the Countess and Cecelia Hall as Cherubino courtesy of Opera Philadelphia.


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