Review by Danny Gaisin
Episode 2 in the Figaro Saga. When we left off; Figaro- the factotum cum barber had finessed Rosina away from her patron Dr. Bartolo and arranged for her to be with her Count Almaviva (aka) Lindoro.
Mozart takes up the story a half-decade later. Almaviva has turned into a horny married old man; hired a maid for his countess (Rosina) and employed Figaro as his butler. Figaro wants to marry maid Susanna; Almaviva wants to deflower her before the wedding.
Cue the overture!
l-r Bartolo; Basilio; Marcellina; Almaviva; Figaro; Susanna & Rosina
The N.A.O.’s Brott Opera presented Marriage of Figaro utilizing just a few on-stage props but with an outstanding vocal cast and talented crew, all of whom were obviously committed to the undertaking. From the artistic director Tara Kulish; the chorus master Roberto De Clara (more about the chorus later) to stage management; the result was as professional and entertaining as opera buffa can be.
Figaro’s opening major aria ‘cavatina se vuoi ballare’ was performed by baritone Jan Vaulik with all the requisite confidence and intent of a master manipulator. Christopher Dunham’s Almaviva should have remembered with whom he’s dealing! In ‘Nozze’; Dunham’s character is on stage even more than the title individual and he proved to be more than able to meet the challenge. In stance, posture and facial expression, he underlined a strong and projective voice that carried each syllable throughout the hall. Vaulik’s advice & warning to Cherubino about military life ‘Non piu andrai’ (one of the work’s most familiar arias) was propounded almost tongue in-cheek and with a constant eye-glint of humour.
The recipient of the advice is Amanda Fink and this diminutive mezzo as the overly-testosterone-ed young man steals every scene she’s (he’s) in. The changing-outfits bit where Rosina & Susanna decide to dress Cherubino as a girl was staged as pure slapstick and was a highlight moment. When Fink sings the aria ‘voi che sapete’ inquiring about love and if the character suffers with it, we were not the only audience members ‘sub rosa’ humming along.
In the critical role of Susanna, Andrea Nuñez owned the stage. Every movement, facial expression and pose affirmed her portrayed’s personality. An amazing soprano voice that seems completely effortless, she also possesses a constantly smiling façade that can emphasize the lyrics making the translated projections almost superfluous. Her duet with the countess, ‘sullaria che soave zeffiretto’; a metaphoric meteorological aria that’s often part of a pop-opera program blended two major talented voices for a memorable performance. Nuñez’ co-conspiratress Rosina was sung by Natalya Gennadi Matyusheva and her rendering of the heartbreakingly wretched plea ‘porgi amor’ certainly touched every audience member.
There was solid contribution from Edward Hanlon as Bartolo and both Danielle Vaillancourt & Mathieu Abel in the support roles of Marcellina and Basilio respectively. As foil for Cherubino, Elizabeth Polese’s Barbarina was a perfect choice for his girlfriend.
The chorus included a dozen or so young ladies that were so adorable as to bring palpitations to every loving grandparent in the audience.’ Cute’ is just not enough of a descriptive synonym. The orchestra never overpowered the vocalists and the 1920 costumes did not detract from the usual or original staging of the opera. It was an enchanting evening, it was melodically perfect and like most of the patrons, we returned home humming or singing excerpts from the libretto.
Question: – What’s next year’s Brott Opera offering…inquiring minds etc.