Tuesday, October 23, 2018

“Marriage of Figaro” Opens San Diego Opera’s 2018-2019 Season With Bells And Whistles.


The sets are massive. The costumes are bright and beautiful. The lighting cast large shadows over the stage. The voices are spot on gorgeous. The Symphony orchestra under conductor John Nelson is scrumptious.

The Mayor issued a proclamation. City council members spoke praising those involved in breathing new life into what was once a broken system and shout-out’s went to General Director David Bennett for his fine programing and to Darlene Marcos Shiley for being the lead sponsor and Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”, the opening opera of the season, played on to happy patrons throughout the over three hour production.

Scene from "Marriage of Figaro"
Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” is the sequel to the Beaumarchais/Rossini “The Barber of Seville” with pretty much the same characters acting out their same schemes of infidelity, crass manners, and master -servant relationships.   

“Marriage” begins several years after “The Barber of Seville” and now Figaro is engaged to Susanna. They are preparing their bedroom according to the room given them by his master, Count Almaviva (Baritone John Moore).  The Count, bored with married life to Countess Almaviva/Rosina. (Soprano Caitlin Lynch), is on the move.

He’s ready (well almost) to settle down to married life but still can’t stop his wandering eye. His Countess has little power to stop him. He is now focusing on Figaro’s (Bass-baritone Evan Hughes), intended, Susanna (Soprano Sarah Shafer). 
Joseph Hu and Sarah Shafer
He’s working it so he and Susanna will consummate their little love (some silly little edict allows him) tryst before her marriage to Figaro. But because the convoluted story is as confusing as and silly as any you might see on stage that will not happen.

Let’s just call what it is, a farce set to a beautiful and lively score and some pretty ingenious acting by the entire crew. You might even say at some point they are masters of disappearing under beds, in closets, out windows and in disguise. Figaro has left his mark on those determined to make his life miserable but his zany adventures with the Count continue to entertain. 

Dr. Bartolo’s (Bass-baritone Ashrif Sewailam) is still miffed at Figaro for interfering and stopping his marriage to Rosina. At about 30 or so years her senior, and not too secret about his lust for her either some might call him a dirty old man. 

Don Basilio (Tenor Joseph Hu) was Rosina’s singing teacher and is courting Susanna pretending to be giving her singing lessons. He’s also a troublemaker carrying messages back and forth while teaching her to sing.

Caitlin Lynch and Emily Fos
Marcellina, (Mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer) Bartolo’s former housekeeper is also interested in marrying Figaro, basing her case on an old marriage contract for the money he owed Bartolo that he never repaid.

Cherubino (Soprano Emily Fons), the young page in Almaviva’s castle seems to have a problem keeping his/her hormones under control and has a flirting problem. He’s about to be banished off to the army. Whenever he’s in the presence of any of the women in the castle his hormones kick in proving to be a bit of an embarrassment. The Count is weary of him but left to his own devices, he’s still a favorite of all the ladies. She has a beautiful soprano voice.

Even Antonio, the gardener (Bass-baritone Scott Sikon), objects to Figaro’s marriage. He gets his two cents in claiming Figaro isn’t good enough to marry his niece Susanna.
Scene from "Marriage of Figaro"
But all’s well that ends well and after all is said and done and none of the devilish plots to sabotage Figaro’s wedding day pan out. Can we assume they will live happily ever after?

First though Suzanna and the Countess have some of their own plans to put their men in place. They disguising themselves as the other and the men find out soon enough that they are actually courting their own women.

When all was said and done, teaching them a lesson that all their little games of power and subjugation by using their women as pawns, had been noticed for too long.

With a near perfect evening one little glitch was somewhat of a distraction when it was announced that Mezzo Soprano Susanne Mentzer’s Marcellina was a bit under the weather (possibly from the dryness in the air and just for opening performance).
Evan Hughes and Sarah Shafer
Mentzer’s singing role was performed from the wings by Julia Metzler while Ms. Mentzer was mouthing the words. It was a bit of a challenge for yours truly but it proved to be a non- issue after I regained my focus.

The rest of the season proves to be another exciting venture into 2019 with “Rigoletto”, “Carmen” and “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914” and Jake Heggie's “Three Decembers”.

For a fun evening with a near perfect production, "Marriage of Figaro" should be on your must see list.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: 7 pm on the 26th, 2pm Oct. 28th 
Organization: San Diego Opera
Phone: 619-533-7000
Production Type: Comic Opera
Where: 3rd Avenue and B Street, San Diego, CA92101
Ticket Prices: Start at $50.00 and up.
Web: sdopera.org
Venue: Civic Theatre
Photo: J. Katarzyna Woronowicz Johnson

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