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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 22, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 04
Lively, lovely Marriage of Figaro
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Lively, lovely Marriage of Figaro

by Alice Bloch - SGN A&E Writer

SEATTLE OPERA
THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO
MARION OLIVER MCCAW HALL
January 17 (second cast)
(also 1/24 & 1/29)


My name is Alice, and I'm a Marriage of Figaro addict. Figaro has been my favorite opera since I first discovered it in an undergraduate Music Literature class many years ago. I bought a set of LPs and listened to Mozart's gorgeous music every night in my dorm room, and soon I was so far gone that I began studying Italian in the hope of understanding Lorenzo da Ponte's witty libretto.

If you're not already in love with the Mozart-da Ponte operas, the delightful production of Figaro now at Seattle Opera might just be your gateway drug. Conducted by Gary Thor Wedow and directed by Seattle Opera General Director Aidan Lang, this production is thoroughly satisfying. It's beautiful both visually and musically, as well as being hilarious, thought-provoking, and emotionally rich.

Sharon Cumberland's review (in this week's SGN) of the opening-night performance provides an excellent summary of the opera and of the main elements of this production. I agree with her on all counts.

The performance I attended featured a number of marvelous singers making their Seattle Opera debuts in this tale of a wild and crazy day in the household of Count and Countess Almaviva. Most notable was soprano Laura Tatulescu in the demanding role of Susanna, the feisty, adorable, intelligent chambermaid who conspires with Figaro and the Countess to humble the arrogant, philandering Count. Tatulescu proved herself a supremely talented comedic actor and singer. I hope she'll return to Seattle Opera soon and often.

Soprano Caitlin Lynch, a former Seattle Opera Young Artist, excelled as the Countess. Her rich, fluid voice is perfect for this role, and she delivered a lovely performance in her two big solos, in her duet with Susanna, and in the ensemble pieces with which this opera abounds.

Bass-baritone Aubrey Allicock also sang and acted well as Figaro, giving the character an endearing, childlike quality that added to the charm of the performance. As his boss, the Count, bass John Moore made an impressive company debut, highlighting the comic aspects of the role and singing with admirable expressivity.

Another talented alumna of the Young Artists Program, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Pojanowski, gave a fine performance as Cherubino, the hormone-stricken young man who sows chaos throughout the opera. Bass Arthur Woodley as Dr. Bartolo and mezzo-soprano Margaret Gawrysiak (yet another former Young Artist) as Marcellina rounded out the principals in style.

One mark of the excellence of this production is that even the smallest roles are filled by outstanding singers: Charles Robert Austin as Antonio the gardener, Steven Cole as Don Basilio, Alasdair Elliott as Don Curzio, and former Young Artist Amanda Opuszynski as Barbarina. (Please, Mr. Lang, bring back the Young Artists Program!)

Kudos to Maestro Wedow for keeping orchestra and singers together in the mayhem of this opera, a particularly difficult feat during the scenes in which characters pile onto the stage, interrupting the action as a duet becomes a trio, the trio becomes a quartet, and so on, until there's a septet plus the chorus.

Figaro is considered a revolutionary opera not only because the servants are smarter than the masters and the women are smarter than the men, but also because Figaro and Susanna are granted the respect of accompaniment by strings and fortepiano during their recitatives. (In earlier operas, only noble characters' recitatives were accompanied by strings.) The most recent previous production at Seattle Opera accompanied the servants by harpsichord only, so it was gratifying to hear this error rectified in the current production.

Special praise is due dramaturg Jonathan Dean, who always provides splendid English captions but who outdid himself in his captions for Figaro. His translations are clever, accurate, and perfect in tone. If you attend this opera, I guarantee that you will leave McCaw Hall in a better mood than you had when you entered. Seriously, how many operas can promise that?

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Lively, lovely Marriage of Figaro
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