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Thread: The Marriage of Figaro at Santa Fe Opera

          
   
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  1. #1
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    The Marriage of Figaro at Santa Fe Opera

    Le Nozze di Figaro (1786), opera in four acts at Santa Fe Opera - this review is of the 8/3/13 performance

    Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, after the play by Beaumarchais

    The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra conducted by John Nelson
    Stage Director Bruce Donnell
    Scenic and costume design Paul Brown
    Lighting design Duane Schuler
    Chorus Master Susanne Sheston
    Production Jonathan Kent (revival)

    Sung in Italian with English and Spanish on-the-seat titles

    The cast in order of vocal appearance

    Figaro, the count's valet - Zachary Nelson
    Susanna, the countess' maid - Lisette Oropesa
    Doctor Bartolo - Dale Travis
    Marcellina, the housekeeper - Susanne Mentzer
    Cherubino, the count's pageboy - Emily Fons
    Count Almaviva, lord of the manor - Daniel Okulitch
    Don Basilio, the music master - Keith Jameson
    Countess Almaviva - Susanna Phillips
    Antonio, the gardiner - Adam Lau
    Don Curzio, a judge - Jonathan Winell
    Barbarina, Antonio's daughter - Rachel Hall
    Two bridesmaids - Lindsay Russell and Samantha Korbey

    This run continues on August 8, 13, 20, and 23

    On the advantages of attending the summer festival at Santa Fe Opera, read the introduction to our review of The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein [here]; we won't repeat today the always valid praise for this outstanding environment and great opera company.

    All photos are credited to Ken Howard, used with permission, courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera Press Department

    ------------

    I'm sadly saying goodbye to the 2013 Santa Fe Opera Festival, after seeing all five productions in consecutive days. It was a great time thanks to the company's hospitality (Joyce Idema, Cindy Layman, and Dolores McElroy from the Press Department were kind and helpful as usual), the beautiful setting, the comfortable seats in this great open air theater, and the exciting city full of art and good restaurants. All five productions were rated by Opera Lively between B+ and A+, making for a very entertaining week.

    I confess that I'm a bit exhausted, at 1:30 AM and having a long trip back home tomorrow, so this review will be briefer than the other four.

    Mozart's delightful opera dispenses introduction and commentary, and this is a revival, therefore I won't dwell on the sets beyond saying that they are beautiful and full of flowers, and the costumes are fabulous.

    While the orchestra in my opinion performed less well than in the other four nights, with synchrony problems (lagging behind the singers twice in act one and once in act four), acting and singing were excellent across the board, by this predominantly very young cast.

    Two of the three main female roles were exquisitely acted and sung by Lisette Oropesa (Susanna) and Susanna Phillips (Countess Almaviva). The third main female (trouser) lead was just a few inches behind, by Emily Fons (Cherubino). Daniel Okulitch was a very solid Almaviva, and Zachary Nelson, also a couple of inches less impressive, still did very well as Figaro. Comprimario roles were all very well executed by this talented ensemble of singers, with a pretty and youthful Barbarina, an appropriately lecherous Don Basilio, a competent Bartolo, a funny Marcelina, and an interesting Antonio. It is curious to notice that in this production virtually all singers looked their part, making for a very realistic Nozze that was was easy to relate to.

    I was thoroughly impressed with Lisette Oropesa's Susanna. She had great stage presence, comic flair, good timing in her stage movements, vivid chemistry with both her Figaro and Countess Almaviva, and sang beautifully this Mozart music that suits her voice so well. She sang naturally throughout the evening, with never a strained note. What a charming Susanna!

    Susanna Phillips was an equally good Countess Almaviva, drawing wild applause for her "Porgi Amor" and her "Dove sono." She was very pretty in her beautiful costumes, and her timbre was extremely pleasant.

    Emily Pons is a very good comedian and portrayed Cherubino very well. Daniel Okulitch was another high point of the evening and both sang and acted a rather flawless Count.

    One of the ways to gauge how successful this young cast was, came from observing the audience - it was very engaged and laughed out loud throughout the show. I overheard several patrons expressing how pleased they were with the performance - not to forget the long standing ovation that greeted the artists.

    I wouldn't say that this traditional production had major stage directing fireworks, and like I said the orchestra seemed a bit inattentive, but the enthusiasm of the acting and the quality of the singing made of it a very charming show, that does deserve an A grade and is highly recommended to those who want to have a good time with this Mozart/Da Ponte masterpiece.

    As a last bit of pleasure, I met again Lisette and her husband backstage whom I knew from our interview with her (click [here] to read it) on the occasion of her recent Gilda at the Met. Meeting the young and charming couple was a fitting end to such a nice week.

    Without further comments, some production pictures follow. A fond farewell to Santa Fe Opera, and see you next year.

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    Lisette in her beautiful fourth act aria

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    Susanna as the Countess

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    Emily and Lisette

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    Lisette, Daniel, and Emily

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    Sull'aria

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    Flowers everywhere

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    Good chemistry between Figaro and Susanna

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    Nice ensemble; Emily and Rachel are on the left by the window

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    Lisette, Zachary, Susanne, and Dale

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    The Count and the Countess
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 14th, 2018 at 04:04 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  2. #2
    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    While the orchestra in my opinion performed less well than in the other four nights, with synchrony problems (lagging behind the singers twice in act one and once in act four), ...
    Don't you mean the singers were leading the orchestra, as it is the conductor that sets the tempo?
    “The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.”
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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Well, that's what was interesting about it. The singers seemed to be managing their own tempo since they were singing the arias with the usual pace we most often listen to, in these very well known pieces, and the orchestra seemed to be trying to play catch-up, so I wonder what the conductor was doing in terms of controlling all elements. It's almost like the singers weren't paying much attention to what the orchestra was doing, if this is at all possible, or vice-versa. It was strange. It's hard to know if this was the fault of the orchestra, of the conductor, or of the singers. I guess this can happen when there is little time to rehearse together, and I don't know how much in advance this guest conductor arrived to Santa Fe, so maybe this is what explains it. In any case, even though the conductor sets the tempo, it's not unusual for singers to slow down or speed up on their own in specific passages, depending on the agility needed for a coloratura or the ornamentation they favor, and it is the job of the conductor/orchestra to adapt to them, like many conductors we've interviewed have mentioned. So I guess if I had to fault someone for this, my guess is that the orchestra/conductor were a bit inattentive to how the singers were tackling the pieces. Now, I'll tell you this - I'm not just saying this to sound smart or anything. I am *absolutely* certain that the orchestra did lag behind in these three moments (or, another way to say it, that the singers rushed ahead). It was very noticeable.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  4. #4
    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    Well, that's what was interesting about it. The singers seemed to be managing their own tempo since they were singing the arias with the usual pace we most often listen to, in these very well known pieces, and the orchestra seemed to be trying to play catch-up, so I wonder what the conductor was doing in terms of controlling all elements. It's almost like the singers weren't paying much attention to what the orchestra was doing, if this is at all possible, or vice-versa. It was strange. It's hard to know if this was the fault of the orchestra, of the conductor, or of the singers. I guess this can happen when there is little time to rehearse together, and I don't know how much in advance this guest conductor arrived to Santa Fe, so maybe this is what explains it. In any case, even though the conductor sets the tempo, it's not unusual for singers to slow down or speed up on their own in specific passages, depending on the agility needed for a coloratura or the ornamentation they favor, and it is the job of the conductor/orchestra to adapt to them, like many conductors we've interviewed have mentioned. So I guess if I had to fault someone for this, my guess is that the orchestra/conductor were a bit inattentive to how the singers were tackling the pieces. Now, I'll tell you this - I'm not just saying this to sound smart or anything. I am *absolutely* certain that the orchestra did lag behind in these three moments (or, another way to say it, that the singers rushed ahead). It was very noticeable.
    I'd guess that if it was the orchestra, it wasn't the instrumentalists themselves as they've had it drummed into them since they were in high school to follow the lead of the conductor, bringing us to your second possibility.
    “The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.”
    ― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

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