L.A. Opera Did Three Shows About Figaro, and This One Is the Best (GO!)
The Marriage of Figaro
Photo by Craig T. Mathew
In opera’s Figaro Trilogy, true love always wins out in the end, but it first requires the intervention of a small village of scheming eavesdroppers, nearsighted voyeurs, reverse cross-dressers and dancing maidens to ensure that the right couples are ultimately paired together.
L.A. Opera opened its final part of the trilogy, composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte’s 1786 Italian-language comedy The Marriage of Figaro, on Saturday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and it was the most fully engaging production of the trio. The audience certainly seemed to think so, giving the performance the longest standing ovation of the season.
John Corigliano’s modern fantasy The Ghosts of Versailles was a three-ring circus of visual delights, whereas Gioachino Rossini’s more traditional The Barber of Seville was distinguished by its classic tunes and the cast’s strong vocal performances. But Mozart filled The Marriage of Figaro with even more fantastic melodies, from playfully pompous military bombast to stately wedding marches, and the entire group of singers and chorus was impressive.
L.A. Opera has given us three strikingly different Figaros this year. Lucas Meachem swaggered with a reckless impulsiveness as Figaro in The Ghosts of Versailles, whereas Rodion Pogossov exuded a jaunty charm in The Barber of Seville as the savvy hair stylist who hooks up Count Almaviva with his beloved Countess. By the time the action in The Marriage of Figaro takes place some years later, the Count (Ryan McKinny) has turned into a lecherous jerk who neglects the despairing Countess (Guanqun Yu) so he can chase his servant Figaro’s fiancée, Susanna (Pretty Yende). Italian bass-baritone Roberto Tagliavini made the title character sterner and more conflicted than the other Figaros, and his delivery was often stirring.
South African soprano Yende lived up to her first name musically with sweetly melodious phrasing, and her duet with Yu, “A Little Song on the Breeze,” was beyond enchanting. But it was Yu who elevated the opera from mere farce into grand romantic passion when she imbued the Countess’ lonely aria with a breathtaking beauty that alternated between majestic vocal power and heartbroken delicacy. The Chinese soprano is clearly a star on the rise.
Several members of the cast have appeared this season in previous parts of the trilogy in varying roles, such as Kristinn Sigmundsson, who lowered his deep bass here as the vengeful Doctor Bartolo, and the always amusing mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer as Marcellina, whose desire for Figaro turns out to be unwittingly incestuous. Renée Rapier expanded on her gender-bent turn as Cherubino in The Ghosts of Versailles, portraying to great comic effect an amorous young man who has to dress as a woman to escape the Count’s wrath. Director Ian Judge kept the pace properly lively, while conductor James Conlon vibrantly guided the orchestra through Mozart’s elaborate arrangements with nuanced dynamics.
L.A. Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Thurs., March 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., March 29, 2 p.m.; Sat., April 4, 7:30 p.m.; Thurs., April 9, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., April 12, 2 p.m. $22-$325. (213) 972-8001, www.laopera.org.
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