Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Charlene Baldridge
Photo by Ken Howard

Marriage of Figaro at Santa Fe Opera

Santa Fe, August 14, 2013 – We viewed the second of five operas on our Santa Fe Opera agenda – a very traditional, no surprises production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Textually (da Ponte) this is the bittersweet comedy that in the canon of works derived from Beaumarchais stories continues the adventures of the young lovers, Rosina and Count Almaviva, who spoiled Doctor Bartolo’s plans to marry Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.

Some years have passed. Rosina, now Countess Almaviva (Susanna Phillips) laments the fact that the Count (bass-baritone “barihunk” Daniel Okulitch) no longer desires her. Indeed, he fancies, among others, Susanna (soprano Lisette Oropesa), his lady’s maid, who is that day, with a promised dowry from the Count, set to marry his manservant, Figaro (baritone Zachary Nelson). It’s the same clever Figaro who aided Rosina and the Count’s elopement in the Rossini opera. The other libidinous male in the household is the young and inexperienced, yet randy, Cherubino (mezzo-soprano Emily Fons in the trouser role), who fancies every skirt in sight, the Countess’s, Susanna’s, and even those of the Gardener’s (bass Adam Lau) daughter Barbarina (soprano Rachel Hall). When it comes to love and lechery, there are no bounds of class.
Emily Fons as Cherubino, Lisette Oropesa as Susanna
All photos by Ken Howard

Doctor Bartolo (bass-baritone Dale Travis) and his housekeeper Marcellina (mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer) arrive. Marcellina intends to force Figaro to marry her because she holds an old promissory note stipulating that in the event he forfeits, he must wed her.
Susanna Phillips as the Countess

Daniel Okulitch as Count Almaviva

To say that complications ensue is understatement. To attempt to explicate the twists and turns, lies, alliances, motives, and switches of identity would be foolhardy. Let us just say that all are properly chastised and wed at the end of the opera. The denouement takes a century to arrive; the path as twisted as that in scenic designer Paul Brown’s flower garden, which seems to cultivate nosegays already differentiated, profuse, ready for the picking, and thorny enough that they present difficulty of navigation to costume designer Brown’s period skirts. Thereby may hang a metaphor. No matter how twisted and briery the path, however, the trip is worth taking due to Mozart’s genius for melody and intricate ensemble work. The production is directed by Bruce Donnell, lighted by Duane Schuler and conducted by John Nelson. Susanne Sheston’s chorus is well heard and delightfully turned out.
Zachary Nelson as Figaro
Lisette Oropesa as Susanna

Each Nelson and Okulitch arrives touted as the nth degree of machismo and intense stage virility and vocal allure to match. Though Okulitch’s jackets were the envy of my male companion (I was impressed with the cut and fabric as well), I was underwhelmed by these paragons of masculinity. Neither has the rich operatic voice that calls one to jump in and luxuriate a while.

Phillips fielded a passable “Porgi Amor” and an interesting “Dove Sono.” Her noisy quaff and slamming down of the Count’s drink in Act II displayed her anger and determination, but as my companion remarked she should have lobbed her badly styled, unflattering wig into the garden as she made exit. The high point of vocalism was Oropesa’s “Deh Vieni.” She is a sweet, wily Susanna and quite literally leaves the men behind in the shrubs and garden houses.

Tonight we see the SFO and Metropolitan Opera coproduction of Rossini’s La Donna del Lago (The Lady of the Lake) with Joyce DiDonato and Lawrence Brownlee.

For further information about SFO productions this season and next, go to

No comments:

Post a Comment