Tuesday, April 27, 2010

WNO - Le Nozze di Figaro - 04/26/10

Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 
Conductor: Patrick Fournillier 
Director: Harry Silverstein 
Figaro: Ildar Abdrazakov 
Susanna: Veronica Cangemi 
Count Almaviva: Teddy Tahu Rhodes 
Countess Almaviva: Virginia Tola 
Cherubino: Michele Losier 
Marcellina: Victoria Livengood 
Dr Bartolo: Valeriano Lanchas 

Six months after Rossini's entertaining The Barber of Seville, The Washington National Opera is currently presenting its sequel: Mozart's all-around delightful Nozze di Figaro (especially if you take out the disheartening ending in which the spineless countess takes back her wayward husband that is). The first collaboration of Vienna's boy wonder with his most famous librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, it is a charming frolic elevated to higher, much higher grounds, by its flawless score. 
So, two weeks after enjoying the Met's exuberant production of Die Zauberflöte, I found myself back in the Kennedy Center Opera House with my friend Jennifer for a more straight-by-the-book but all-the-better-to-concentrate-on-the-music production from Mozart's seemingly bottomless oeuvre. Although the cast did not feature any household names, its evenly dependable range of talent assured that we were in for a predictably enjoyable evening, and sometimes that's all one needs. 

 Inspired by Beaumarchais's play "Le mariage de Figaro", which was banned in Vienna back in the days, just a few years before the French Revolution, because of its clever but stinging satire of aristocracy, the opera instead focuses on the laughter and tears of everyday life through the conflicts and plots of engaging characters thrown in comical situations, never mind the hot political subtext. Everything in it is pretext for exquisitely intricate harmonies and impeccably soaring vocal combinations, and it all starts with the flawless perfection of its ever-popular opening. 
Musical nirvana at the opera depends as much on the musicians as on the singers, and last night we were treated to quite an impressive cast. Ildar Abdrazakov was a solid, assertive Figaro, as present through his acting as his singing, and bravely holding his own against Teddy Tahu Rhodes's brazen hunk of a Count Almaviva. The latter, however, was not just a pretty face (or bare chest) as his voice proved to be as charismatic as his looks. 
The two lead ladies served admirably their roles as well: Veronica Cangemi was a savvy, pull-no-punches Susanna and won the endurance test that is her part. As the Countess, Virginia Tola was so physically and vocally lovely that you wondered why the Count would even bother looking somewhere else. 
Secondary characters were aptly embodied as well, with most particularly a sweetly endearing Cherubino (Michele Losier) and an unstoppable force-of-nature in Marcellina (Victoria Livengood). The decors and costumes were traditional and effective, all the more to let our ears do all the work, I guess. 
And they sure had a field day thanks to maestro Patrick Fournillier, who was making his WNO debut there. He made sure to keep the action swiftly moving along and Mozart's truly beautiful score seamlessly flowing through. The famous sextet at the end of Act II was the dazzling tour de force everybody was expecting, and after the classical happy ending, everybody eventually went home in a joyful mood.

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