Figaro brilliantly performed
The Oberlin Conservatory Opera Theater continued their reputation for first-class productions with their Wednesday night performance of Mozart’s famous opera, The Marriage of Figaro. Director Jonathon Field brought together a group of highly impressive talents, including guest conductor Eve Queler, the music director of the Opera Orchestra of New York and possibly the most famous female opera conductor in history. The result was an evening of hilarious entertainment and beautiful music-making.
The talents singing on stage were perhaps the greatest element of this production. Every voice was beautiful and strong. Every word was sung with a profound appreciation for the Italian language’s inherent beauty. The recitatives were always crystal clear, and the arias were performed with an elegant lyricism that surely would have made Mozart proud.
Artist Diploma student Aaron Agulay’s performance in the title role was generally good. While he performed with clear confidence, his awkward and occasionally over-extravagant gestures were somewhat distracting. Yet every time his superb voice rang through Hall Auditorium, any flaw in his acting was instantly forgiven.
The role of Susanna, Figaro’s bride-to-be, was depicted stunningly by senior Marie Masters. A natural and experienced performer on the opera stage, Masters gave a unique sense of spice and edge to her lovable character.
Senior Todd Boyce portrayed the role of the Count with nobility and haughtiness. His performance, however, lacked the harsh viciousness that makes his character so easy to hate. Yet, as with Agulay, his singing was so sublime that any dramatic imperfection was easily forgotten.
Senior Megan Hart performed the Countess’s role with substance and depth. She presented to the audience a desperate, tormented woman suffering from her husband’s infidelity and disdain.
In addition to the excellent portrayals of these four major characters, many of the singers in supporting roles gave extremely strong performances.
Senior Natasha Uspensky’s portrayal of Marcellina, one of the antagonists (who later turns out to be Figaro’s mother), was full of dramatic flare. The depiction of the young pageboy Cherubino by senior Abigail Peters was delightful. She masterfully represented the love-struck adolescent with a youthful effervescence. Yet of all the fine performances in supporting roles, junior Alek Shrader’s portrayal of the music teacher Basilio was by far the most entertaining. As he pranced around the stage with his arms floating in the air like a ballerina, he contributed a delicious sleaziness to his nasty character. Other noteable performances were the dirty drunkard Antonio (sophomore Colin Levin) and the stuttering judge Don Curzio (junior Michael Sansoni).
Though there were occasional ensemble and intonation problems, the orchestra performed generally well. They rarely overpowered the singers on stage, and assistant music director Alan Montgomery accompanied the recitatives on harpsichord perfectly. Several of Queler’s tempos were slower than most performances of The Marriage of Figaro. While the overall energy was slightly lacking as a result, the slower tempos allowed for a unique sense of clarity (especially in the overture).
The costumes by Chris Flaherty and the sets by Damen Mroczek were fantastically colorful and lavish. Their depiction of a 1780s Italian palace had an impressive focus on detail and ornamentation.
Of all the people involved in this production, few deserve as much praise as Jonathan Field. His brilliant stage direction beautifully brought to life Mozart’s glorious music and Lorenzo da Ponte’s clever libretto.
Wednesday evening’s performance of The Marriage of Figaro lasted about three and a half hours. But as one perfectly crafted scene wove into the next, the time flew by and, before anyone knew it, the show was over. It was a highly successful and enjoyable production for which everyone involved has reason to feel extremely proud.
The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Friday and
Saturday at 8 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m. in Hall Auditorium. All
seats are sold out. Standing room is available for $3 at the box office
one hour prior to each performance.