Entertainment » Music

The Marriage of Figaro. Boston Lyric Opera

by Ed Tapper
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday May 1, 2017
Nicole Heaston in Boston Lyric Opera's new production of "The Marriage of Figaro" running through May 7 at John Hancock Hall.
Nicole Heaston in Boston Lyric Opera's new production of "The Marriage of Figaro" running through May 7 at John Hancock Hall.  

Mozart's collaborations with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte yielded three of the finest operas in the repertoire. Selecting the greatest is no easy chore, and much depends on which one of the three one last heard. "The Marriage of Figaro" may have a slight edge on "Don Giovanni" and "Cosi fan tutte," since it is the first of the three; and no earlier score by any composer contained as much wit, melodic beauty and all-around musical sophistication. However Boston audiences have the opportunity to make up their own minds, as Boston Lyric Opera is concluding their current season with the Mozart masterwork. The spirited production is being mounted at John Hancock Hall, and performances run through May 7. The extraordinarily high level of singing qualify this as one show not to be missed.

As appears to be the case with most opera productions these days, the BLO "The Marriage of Figaro" is updated to the 1950s. Stage Director Rosetta Cucchi claims to have been inspired by the 1954 Billy Wilder film "Sabrina," although that association, and the time period itself, were not at all apparent. The production was subtitled "A Work in Progress," and the set featured an open stage with no large flats, and props that were brought on by stagehands who were visible throughout the performance. The concept did not work, nor did it lend anything to Mozart's opera. However, the stage direction itself was quite imaginative and energetic, which compensated for the design elements, or lack thereof. But it was the top-notch cast that really put across this "The Marriage of Figaro."

Emily Fons and Evan Hughes in Boston Lyric Opera's new production of  

Making his Boston debut, Evan Hughes was a superlative Figaro. His sturdy bass-baritone was perfectly, focused, even, and sizeable in scale. He tossed off all his arias with ease, and appeared to have far more in vocal reserve. He is tall and slim, and cuts a handsome stage presence. This is one real find the company would do will to re-engage as often as possible.

Soprano Emily Birsan sang the part of Susanna to perfection. A fine musician, her intonation was dead on throughout the evening, and her silvery tone proved ideal for the role. Her rendition of "Deh vieni non tardar," Susanna's final aria, was nothing short of ethereal. Also ideally cast was David Pershall as Count Almaviva. His beautiful, secure, bass voice, and comedic talents proved true assets to the production.

As the Countess, Nicole Heaston sang well, but lacked the sumptuous, regal sound required for the role. The "Porgi amor," a fiendish entrance for any soprano, was not particularly memorable. Yet later, in Act three, the "Dove sono" was beautifully realized, and brought the biggest ovation of the night. Although her voice was not large, it had an attractive, darker timbre that provided a nice contrast to that of Birsan.

In the pants role of Cherubino, the page-boy, Emily Fons was made up to look remarkably butch. She employed her handsome mezzo-soprano to wonderful effect in her two famous arias. Bass David Cushing and soprano Michelle Trainor sounded great as well, and seemed to have real fun in the roles of Marcellina and Bartolo. David Angus conducted with his usual high level of proficiency. His tempi were characteristically brisk, which made sense for an opera the length of "The Marriage of Figaro." Yet he did seize the opportunity to relax at the broadly lyrical moments. As always, the orchestra played quite well under his baton.

Boston Lyric Opera will resume in October with a production of Puccini's "Tosca," always a big crowd-pleaser. The new season will also include the world premiere of "Burke & Hare," an opera by the English composer Julian Grant. In 2018, the company will present two 20th century works, Kurt Weill's "Threepenny Opera," and Leonard Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti," For tickets to Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro," or subscription information for the 2017-18 season, visit www.blo-org, or call 617-542-6772.

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