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Review: 'The Marriage of Figaro'

March 10, 2009

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    March 10, 2009
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    Opera Carolina News

Review: 'The Marriage of Figaro'

Less than seven years have elapsed since Opera Carolina last presented The Marriage of Figaro as a full-fledged grand opera with all the trimmings. The current version, adroitly directed by John Hoomes, discards the scenery and lifts the orchestra out of the pit, placing them behind the singers. That pushes nearly all of the action in front of the Belk Theater proscenium and brings the audience closer to Mozart's masterful mix of comedy, drama and romance.

Hoomes has rounded up a cast that can bring all these chemistries vividly to life, most of them newcomers at OC this season. As Figaro, Kristopher Irmiter isn't quite as commanding as he was last year in the title role of Don Giovanni, but as he's eased off the power, there's a new wiliness glittering in his eyes as he and his Susanna navigate their way around Count Almaviva's lecherous designs -- and his feudal privileges. Anne-Carolyn Bird makes a pleasing debut as Susanna, an alluring schemer who matches Figaro for cunning, jealousy and fidelity.

Somehow the center shifts gradually to the drama between Almaviva and his scorned Countess, that same Rosina he strove so cavalierly to win just six weeks ago in the Beaumarchais prequel, Rossini's The Barber of Seville. Kyle Pfortmiller as Almaviva is always dashing, dangerous and desirable even when he's cruel and unfaithful to his wife. As the Countess, soprano Ailyn Pérez seems upstaged at first by the acting abilities of the other stars, including Diane McEwen-Martin making her debut as Cherubino, the pesky boy poet with crushes on every woman in sight. But when Pérez finished her heartfelt performance of the achingly lovely "Dove sono" deep in Act 3, she had stolen the thunder from all the more familiar arias that preceded.

You won't be disappointed by the Almaviva reconciliation in the final moonlight scene, but you may be surprised by how close the Figaro-Susanna reaffirmation comes to matching it. Great music and great theater.

By Perry Tannenbaum
Creative Loafing