|Lisette Oropesa, Zachary Nelson, Susanna Phillips, Daniel Okulitch||--photo by Ken Howard|
In a fortuitous confluence of casting wisdom, the entire cast operated as an ensemble. We felt as if we were visiting an aristocratic household in which the inhabitants had known each other for years and were familiar with each other's quirks.
One could not have asked for a better Figaro than fast-rising baritone Zachary Nelson who was an apprentice at SFO just last year! His fine expressive voice is matched only by his spot-on acting choices. "Se vuol ballare" never sounded so good; this is a lovable Figaro! His Susana was an equally wonderful Lisette Oropesa whom we have enjoyed long before she graced the stage at The Metropolitan Opera. Her silver soprano and the spunky character she created were a great match with her Figaro. Her love for her husband showed through in her "Deh vieni non tardar".
Just as perfect was the pairing of lovely soprano Susanna Phillips as the neglected Countess whose "Porgi Amor" brought tears to our eyes, as did her "Dove sono". Her Count was portrayed by the handsome Daniel Okulitch, his elegant and aristocratic appearance joining with his resonant bass-baritone to create an entitled aristocrat whom young women would not work too hard to fight off. He excelled at demonstrating the Count's cluelessness.
Mezzo Emily Fons did a splendid job in the trouser role of Cherubino--looking amazingly like a hormonal youth and throwing herself into her "Non so piu" and "Voi che sapete" with excellent breathless phrasing that somehow managed not to lose its legato line. Bass-baritone Dale Travis was effective as the pompous Dr. Bartolo who must go through even more changes than the Count during the course of the bridal day. Mezzo Susanne Mentzer delighted as the snarky housekeeper Marcellina who also must make an attitudinal about-face. Tenor Keith Jameson, who always turns in a fine performance, was true to form as the slimy Don Basilio.
Apprentice Rachel Hall was just as adorable as Barbarina should be and has a promising voice. We hope to hear more of her. As her bibulous father Antonio we heard apprentice Adam Lau who was so effectively made up that we didn't recognize him. Apprentice Jonathan Winell sang the role of Don Curzio and apprentices Lindsay Russell and Samantha Korbey appeared as bridesmaids. We just love seeing apprentices onstage!
John Nelson conducted Mozart's endlessly melodic music with appropriate elan. Bruce Donnell directed with a sure hand. Susanne Sheston ensured that the chorus sang beautifully. Sets and Costumes by Paul Brown hit the mark consistently. But whoever was responsible for Ms. Phillips' wig in Act III should be forced to wear it in public! EWWW!
And one final quibble in a 99% wonderful production by Jonathan Kent--all that flower picking and replacing has GOT to GO. All that stage business during the overture gives the impression that someone didn't trust the audience to enjoy Mozart's masterpiece without some eye candy.
© meche kroop