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Under a blanket of blue: Petrova in The Marriage of Figaro.

A Soggy Engagement

By David King

The Marriage of Figaro

Glimmerglass Opera, July 22

 

It may have been his wedding, but Figaro, played by Patrick Carfizzi, didn’t make much of a first impression on Thursday night at Glimmerglass Opera. In fact, some of the lines in his first major aria (Se vuol ballare) were delivered weakly and slightly off pitch. It was an introduction that made me want to run from the opera house, or fall asleep—whichever was fastest.

Yes, The Marriage of Figaro and Barber of Seville were salacious, provocative material in their day, addressing the excesses and liberties taken by the aristocracy, but this The Marriage of Figaro played out more like bad romantic comedy because the orchestra was drowned out and the delivery felt more quirky—without the emotional potency that can explode the heart strings with thoughts of love, longing, heartache and desperation.

For an opera buffa, certain elements of Glimmerglass’s original production of The Marriage of Figaro seemed a bit stiff. The set consisted of wood paneling that in some light resembled plywood and in others a carpenter’s nightmare, accented by the occasional bit of furniture. The costumes, however, were sharp—the it was set in the early 19th century rather than the traditional 18th. The orchestra, under the direction of David Angus, didn’t seem strong enough to fill the room; any singer with a decent set of lungs was able to overwhelm Mozart’s glorious score.

Thankfully, the performance had a number of saving graces, the most significant of which was Susanna, played by the stunning Lyubov Petrova. Her voice was on key, clear, lively and at times punctuated by fantastic ornamentation. Her duet with Marcellina, who was played by mezzo-soprano Courtney McKeown, was rousing, hysterical even, and benefited from some of the best direction of the evening, as both women suspiciously glared at each other until wrapped up in a tempestuous battle. The direction otherwise consisted mainly of: sit and sing, stand and sing, look away and sing, look towards him and sing. It wasn’t particularly engaging.

But happily, there was another particularly thrilling vocal performance, this one by Barbarina, played by Haeran Hong, a member of the Young American Artists Program. Barbarina’s aria, L’ho perduta, was perhaps one of the strongest vocal performances of the evening. Although brief, it ached with longing and loss. Perhaps a minor character should be played more meekly, but it was a treat to hear Hong use her lungs to full effect. She had a purity to her voice that none of the others had.

As the lover’s farce rolled on it seemed the rest of the singers grew surer of themselves. Carfizzi began delivering his lines in commanding fashion, especially in the midst of the many ensembles. And Petrova had more opportunity to show off her brilliance while playing off of Countess Almaviva, played by Caitlin Lynch. The women intertwined their voices, playing with ornamentation in a tasteful manner.

Count Amaviva, sung by Mark Schnaible, probably did the most acting of the entire cast but his singing was only adequate until he delivered his aria, Vedro mentr’io sospiro.

The cast seemed to pick up confidence heading into the absurd climax, but the pacing and direction killed a lot of the momentum. When the last lines had been sung I knew the performance was over, but was still waiting for more, hoping for maybe one more line sung by Petrova or Hong.

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